Outagamie County officials gather to discuss tornado sirens, severe weather

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As part of Tornado And Severe Weather Awareness Week, Outagamie County hosted an event today to discuss ways to get important information out to the public.

Many view tornado sirens as a primary part of their plans, but officials across multiple agencies agree that's a bad idea.

"If you're waiting for the sirens to sound, you're actually waiting too long.... Because you're not going to hear them indoors, and they're designed for outdoors. So we want to just kind of pull away from that technology," says Lisa Van Schyndel, Outagamie County's Emergency Management Director.

Decades ago, tornado sirens may have been your best bet.

Now, at best, they are a back up for anyone not near a phone, radio, or television.

Jeff Last, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the Green Bay National Weather Service, says, "I think a big emphasis here is how important it is to have multiple ways to receive severe weather watches and warnings. don't rely on outdoor sirens alone."

And there are a wealth of better options.

Weather radios are the big one, relatively inexpensive and always at the ready once programmed.

If you have a smart phone, many free weather apps allow you to receive alerts for your specific location, including our own free FOX 11 Weather App.

And of course, there's always television and radio-- but these don't have the advantage instantly notifying you the moment a warning is issued.

Outagamie County has also gone one step further by setting up their own notification system.

Called AtHoc, it's free for residents in the county.

Outagamie County residents can register by clicking here.

It can alert you via text, email, cell phone, or even land line of weather and civil emergencies.

And county officials can make these alerts hyper-local.

Says Van Schyndel, "Once residents go in and sign up for the AtHoc system to get those warnings, they put their address in there as well. Now, we can communicate with them to shelter in place, to evacuate, because we can draw polygons to notify those residents of what's going on in their neighborhood."

And you'll know before the week is over if you have the necessary protections in place and functional.

The National Weather Service is issuing a mock tornado watch Thursday at 1 PM and mock tornado warnings Thursday at 1:45 PM and 6:45 PM.

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