State prepares for tornado drills

Tornado sirens statewide will be tested Wednesday.
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Lynsay Clutter/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - While Hoosiers get ready for severe weather season, public safety officials are working to improve warning systems that keep you ahead of the storm.

The week of March 4th marks the start of severe weather season in Indiana. Sirens sounded around Marion County late Wednesday morning as a test in preparation for the coming months. School children practiced their tornado drills as part of severe weather preparedness week.

"What people need to be aware of is that tornadoes are increasing at night. We don't know why but they are occurring, and the damage is occurring and it's during those months of February and October and November when people really don't expect those tornadoes and that you really need to be prepared," said Dan McCarthy, National Weather Service.

That's why Hoosiers need to get ready and practice drills. They'll get another chance to do so Wednesday night shortly after 7:00 pm when sirens are tested for the second time today.

"Stop work with your family, take time - what would I do if this were an actual warning? What if I was at a shopping mall, what if I were at school?" said McCarthy, suggesting the types of questions people need to ask themselves to make sure they know what to do.

A weather radio is also a smart choice. McCarthy calls it "the closest thing to someone coming and knocking on your door that a tornado is coming."

Your other warning system comes in the form of tornado sirens. Marion County Emergency Management just updated their entire system.

Officials say the update is akin to upgrading from a cassette player to an iPod. "It's 20 years advanced technology from what we had," said McCarthy.

Two years ago, a 13 Investigates special report revealed massive siren failures during a statewide drill. Two years ago, many of the 136 old civil defense sirens failed during the drill. But now, the old sirens are going out, and new sirens are going in.

They say everyone who lives within the 400 square miles of Marion County should hear one of the sirens.

"We will have 170 new sirens placed throughout the county in a way that the sound engineers tell us that we will have a 98% audible coverage for the outdoor in Marion County which is a tremendous improvement over what we had before," said John Ball, Marion County Emergency Management.

If a siren fails, the computer will detect it. Also in the works: five new storm centers planned for this spring along the western corridor to help spot severe weather rolling in before it's too late.

During a tornado, you should pick a designated shelter, and don't forget items like blankets, food, bottled water, batteries and a weather radio.

If you have a weather radio, the National Weather Service says to set it for your county and the one to the west so you can have advanced warning.

Test your severe weather awareness