Outagamie County prepares for severe weather season

Siren testing in Outagamie County
Siren testing in Outagamie County

APPLETON - Outagamie County Emergency Management officials say they are ready for this year's severe weather season.

The county faced intense criticism last August, after tornado sirens failed to go off ahead of six tornadoes.

The twisters caused more than $31 million in damage.

An outside report later found that a number of factors, including malfunctioning equipment, factored into the sirens' silence.

As part of Severe Weather Awareness Week, FOX 11 checked back in with the county to find out what's being done to keep residents safe in the future.

Julie Loeffelholz, who is Emergency Management director for Outagamie County, was in charge of the sirens when the storms blew through last summer.

She says multiple steps are being taken to test the sirens.

"We test them inaudibly at 10 a.m., the software that we have tests them at 10 a.m. We test them through our software at noon every day, inaudibly. And as you are aware they test every Saturday during the summer. And then we have added the first Wednesday of every month," sajd Loeffelholz.

Jim Duncan is chair of the Outagamie Public Safety committee, which was initially critical of Loeffelholz. He now feels confident in the county's ability to warn people in multiple ways - including on Facebook and Twitter.

"Redundancy is the clue, and having several different means of being warned certainly is advantageous," said Duncan.

One of the big issues last August was the repeater tower that sends the actual signal to trigger the sirens, didn't work.

That tower and its backup power generator are now back on-line, and the county is in the final steps of adding an entire backup repeater tower just in case.

FOX 11 Meteorologists remind residents tornado sirens are meant to warn people outdoors, rather than to warn people who are inside. They say a second form of alert, such as a severe weather radio, should also be used to help keep you and your family safe.