More tornado sirens getting repaired in Marion Co.

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Rich Van Wyk/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Tornado season is here and safety in case of a disaster is of the utmost concern - especially after a tornado ripped apart a school in Alabama, killing eight students. Indiana is testing its statewide tornado and emergency warning system as one part of Severe Weather Awareness Week. Communities test sirens and warning radios and schools test their plans to keep children safe.

Tornadoes that recently tore through the south, killing 19 people, are testaments to the importance of Indiana's test of emergency warning and communications systems.

Twice in three years, tornadoes ripped across the city's south side. Then, like today, students at Homecroft Elementary left their classrooms and covered up in the safer interior hallways. No one's been hurt, but since losing power and telephone service in previous tornadoes, the school system improved its emergency systems.

"We have district-wide radios that we're now able to communicate with central administration. We have emergency lighting added," said Tom Wade, principal.

While 140 sirens are among Marion County's primary methods of warning residents of life threatening weather, during last year's statewide test one third of the city's sirens failed. They didn't work or the system telling operators whether they were functioning didn't work.

13 Investigates later found that while tornadoes moved toward the city and and strong winds ripped open a downtown high rise, nearly one in five warning sirens failed. Half the sirens are at least 30 years old. Those that can't be repaired are scavenged for parts. Even phone numbers to report problems are outdated.

A year ago, Marion County Emergency Management officials promised to make fixing the system a top priority. Today, the director of Marion County Emergency management says 14 percent of the sirens failed the test. John Ball questions the accuracy of that number because the system is so antiquated he says the only way to be certain which sirens aren't working is to stand beneath them. He insists the emergency system is better now than it was last year and will be even better with in six months. We're expecting a major announcement later this week.