Communications Division explains why tornado sirens were activated late

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KATV) — When the storms blew through the Little Rock area Saturday morning, tornado sirens went off, but long after the warning was issued. KATV spoke with the city’s Communications Division, which says “human error” had a big role in why the sirens went off late.

The National Weather Service notified Communications at 9:55 a.m., but the division was only able to sound the tornado sirens 15 minutes later– at 10:10 a.m.

“To be perfectly up front, it’s my fault as a division commander because I didn’t have processes in place that were clear and understandable for everybody, even in those confusing moments where they could get it out,” Captain Ty Tyrrell said. “What happened on Saturday was kind of a perfect storm — in the communications center, [it] was a perfect storm.”

According to Tyrrell, the NWS sent a notification about the tornado warning to ground dispatch. A dispatcher was preoccupied at the time the call came in, and had to call NWS back to confirm the tornado warning. By then, Tyrrell says, the dispatcher had difficulty notifying the supervisor, who is the only person authorized to sound the tornado alarm.

“We were not as staffed as we are on a Monday on Saturdays just because it’s a lower call volume for us, and when you combine everything together it just swarmed us at that particular moment and it took us far too long to work through the moment to get those sirens activated,” Tyrrell added.

He says a delay like that will not happen again. The siren system is going to be updated with step-by-step instructions on how to activate the sirens. There will also be additional staff training so that more people than just the supervisor can sound the alarms.

by Stephanie Bennett (2019, Mar 11) KATV

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Kyrie Wagner