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Alert devices save lives when disaster strikes

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Updated: 5/21/2013 6:45 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When it comes to a natural disaster, having minutes or even seconds to take shelter could mean the difference between life and death.

Many people in Moore, Okla., were alerted by loud sirens designed to go off when there is an imminent threat, others were notified via weather radios and smartphones.

Our local National Weather Service covers 29 counties, 15 in Florida and 14 in Georgia. They're in charge of sending out "watches" and "warnings" when severe weather approaches.

Al Sandrik, meteorologist, is part of a small but critical decision-making team at the NWS.

"We need to determine what the weather situation is. Whether this is a day where we'd be looking at regular severe thunderstorms or if it's a day where we're potentially looking at tornadoes," said Sandrik, who is the warning coordination meteorologist at the NWS.

In the city of Moore, sirens jolted many neighborhoods as massive twisters tore through the town leaving destruction in their wake.

For some, however, not even the sirens deafening wail was enough to alert them.

"I didn't see nothing. I couldn't hear no sirens, I couldn't hear nothing and then it was real windy and then all of sudden everything just stopped," said Lando Hite, tornado victim.

According to Sandrik, sirens like the ones in so-called "tornado alley" are not always the best defense.

"There are better ways to warn. Reverse 911 systems are very popular in this area. They can reach a lot of the telephone numbers in the affected area very quickly and again apps on smart phones are popular," said Sandrik.

Sandrik says one of the reasons why our area does not have sirens like the ones in Moore is because we're a coastal community. That means the ocean's sea breeze blows salt water inland causing the sirens to corrode.

Ultimately, Sandrik says, it all comes down to being informed.

"Keep up to date with what's going on, situational awareness is probably your key tool," said Sandrik.


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