Silencing the tornado warning sirens

I’ve blogged a lot about tornado warning sirens. They’re antiquated, ineffective, unnecessary, and a complete waste of taxpayer dollars. A few of those blogs I’ll post in just a bit, but first…

WTMJ-TV just broadcast a piece about communities starting to re-examine whether to have sirens or not.

Here are two blogs I’ve posted in the past on this subject. The first is from 2010.

The facts: Too many problems associated with tornado warning sirens

Tornado warning sirens have provided a public service for decades.

They’re also imperfect with many inherent problems.

But don’t take my word for it. I offer the scholarly view of Emily Laidlaw, associate scientist for the Societal Impacts Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

Laidlaw writes in the January/February 2010 issue of Weatherwise magazine, “The Controversy Over Outdoor Warning Sirens.” She opens with an account of the 2008 tornado that ravaged a camp in Iowa, killing four scouts, noting that a siren probably saved some lives. Here are excerpts from that point of the article with certain sections emphasized by yours truly:

The Little Sioux Scout Ranch tornado is a text­book example of how outdoor warning sirens should be utilized—in conjunction with comprehensive preparedness and weather awareness, as part of a warning net­work of multiple information sources. But sirens don’t always work as intended. Siren, Wisconsin, for example, was hit by an EF3 tornado on June 18, 2001. Unbe­knownst to most residents, the town’s siren sys­tem had been disabled by a lightning strike the previous month. Accustomed to relying on sirens, many residents expected them to sound when the tornado was imminent. The sirens did not go off, and three people died.  

Scientific literature highlights a number of pit­falls of using sirens, including unrealistic societal dependence on them, desensitization towards them, sound-limiting geographic factors such as wind direction and varying topography, ineffectiveness in elderly and hearing impaired populations, and the fact that sirens are designed to be heard only in out­door settings, such as at picnics or baseball games. In addition, there is no standardized policy for how or when communities activate sirens, meaning that a person from Nebraska who normally hears sirens and heads to her basement to seek shelter from a tor­nado might visit Washington’s coast and not realize that the same siren tone now means a tsunami may be approach­ing and that she should seek higher ground. Simi­larly, a person from Colorado who assumes that a siren indicates a need to seek higher ground due to flash flooding might head outside into the path of a tornado in Tennessee. In Virginia, a siren might mean straight-line winds of 80 mph are imminent, while in a small town in Kansas, the siren could simply mean it is time for lunch.

Even the phrase ‘outdoor warning sirens’ some­times evokes controversy. ‘Calling them ‘outdoor warning sirens’ is con­fusing to people,” said Mark Widner, emergency preparedness manager for the city of Independence, Missouri. ‘There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t expect to hear them in their house.’

Sirens aren’t as glamorous or intriguing as new e-mail and cell phone alert systems, and they’re expensive. One siren can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on its specifications. Many new residential developments consider sirens an eyesore and mandate that they must meet a vari­ety of aesthetic requirements before being installed, which only increases the cost. All of this can cause community officials to stop short of installing siren systems, even after a disaster.

On May 13, 1980, a vicious tornado struck the town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, killing 5 people, injuring 79 others, and leaving 1,200 bewildered res­idents homeless. A post-event survey by University of Georgia researcher Thom­as Hodler found that sirens in the area sounded, effec­tively warning two-thirds of the affected population. In the storm’s aftermath, offi­cials estimated that only 17 percent of the city’s residents could typically hear existing sirens, but a $150,000 request for better siren coverage had been rejected.

Sirens, frequently cited in warning research literature as the second most common source of weather warning information for the general public, are a passive warning method. The average per­son can have no television, radio, or phone service, and be complete­ly unaware of a severe weather threat and yet still be warned when a severe weather threat is imminent. All other technologies require some sort of action by the end user, even if a person receives the necessary equipment for free.

A large percentage of emergency managers and meteorologists, for example, maintain that the average person would be better served by receiving severe weather warnings from a NOAA weather radio rather than a siren. First, weather radios are designed to be heard indoors. Second, they appear to be more cost effective than sirens, ranging in price from approximately $30 to $110. 

‘Sirens are less effective and less dependable than a weather radio, and they’re late,’ said Paul Johnson, director of the Douglas County (Nebras­ka) Emergency Management Agency. ‘You’ve got something that’s less effective, it’s late, and the cost has a legacy to it every single year,’ he said.

Research by Walker Ashley and colleagues at Northern Illinois University pointed out that siren systems are less effective during nocturnal tornadoes, which they found were 2.5 times more likely to cause fatalities than tornadoes occurring during daylight hours.

To be sure, Laidlaw provides pros about warning sirens. However, there are far too many question marks, including the risky scenario of supplying a false sense of security.

Laidlaw concludes:

“The greater challenge, then, falls to a commu­nity of integrated meteorology and social science researchers to better understand how people make decisions during warnings, whether forecasts for weather threats are communicated effectively, how people perceive and interpret that information, and how emergency managers and other community officials can better use tools, such as outdoor warn­ing sirens, to save lives.

As Ashley and colleagues wrote at the conclu­sion of their 2008 study on vulnerability to noc­turnal tornadoes, ‘We must begin to stare down these questions and not sidestep them with the assumption that ‘technology’ will deliver complete and successful mitigation against these events in the future’.”

Here’s a Laidlaw Power Point presentation.

—This Just In, June 22, 2010

One year later I blogged:

Tornado warning sirens=cry wolf=danger


Better than a siren: How new technology is keeping people safe from tornados

Tornado sirens have to go.

Today’s highly interesting read (05/31/17): Liberals getting a taste of their own medicine

Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate (and winner) in Montana’s special congressional election, has been charged with misdemeanor assault after he allegedly body slammed a reporter and broke his glasses.

The incident took place at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman, Montana, the night before the state’s special election.

Ben Jacobs, a political reporter for the Guardian, said he had been asking Gianforte about the Republican healthcare plan when the candidate “body slammed” him and began shouting, “Get the hell out of here.”

“He took me to the ground,” said Jacobs. “This is the strangest thing that has ever happened to me in reporting on politics.”

During my lengthy career as a broadcast journalist I was never body-slammed by anyone I interviewed or tried to interview.

I was yelled at, told off, poked, and had someone put his hands down sharply on my shoulders to emphasize a point (That would have been Hulk Hogan…I was not hurt during the interview, just briefly frightened).

But never body-slammed. Or elbow-smashed. Sucker-punched.

Of course what Gianforte did was entirely wrong. No defense whatsoever.

But columnist Kurt Schlichter raises an interesting point.

While we conservatives realize Gianforte’s actions were inexcusable, should we even care?

Schlichter argues no, with some strong language:

Liberals have chosen to coarsen our culture. Their validation and encouragement of raw hate, their flouting of laws (Hi leakers! Hi Hillary!) and their utter refusal to accept democratic outcomes they disapprove of have consequences. What is itself so surprising is how liberals and their media rentboyz are so surprised to find that we normals are beginning to feel about them the way they feel about us – and that we’re starting to act on it. If you hate us, guess what?

We’re going to start hating you right back.

Read his entire column here.

Canadian scholars wouldn’t be happy with Kayla’s Playground, or my neighbors

No, there’s nothing inaccurate about that headline.

Strange and hard to believe? Yes.

Especially when you consider the scholars I’ll discuss, I’m sure, have never heard of Kayla’s Playground or my neighbors.

That wouldn’t matter to the two Canadians. What the playground and my neighbors have done (and thousands of others) has pushed the scholars to start a worldwide campaign.

This past weekend our family paid a visit to one of our favorite Franklin destinations: Kayla’s Playground.

While Kyla was running around with a newly-found friend I moseyed on over to this spot:

Kayla’s Playground features a Little Free Library. My neighbors who live three doors away also have one up near the curb on their front lawn.

Those neighbors of mine are part of a booming movement. Little Free Libraries can be found in every state and in more than 70 other countries totaling 50,000. More are going up daily.

If you’re unaware of how the concept works, in a nutshell, Take a Book, Return a Book. From their website:

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

Through Little Free Libraries, millions of books are exchanged each year, profoundly increasing access to books for readers of all ages and backgrounds.

Why Does Book Access Matter?

One of the most successful ways to improve the reading achievement of children is to increase their access to books, especially at home (McGill-Franzen & Allington, 2009). But according to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61% of low-income families do not have any books for their kids at home.


Little Free Libraries play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to books (and encouraging a love of reading!) in areas where books are scarce.
Sounds rather commendable. Who could possibly be upset and disagree?

Jane Schmidt, librarian at Ryerson University in Toronto, and Jordan Hale, an original cataloguer and reference specialist for the University of Toronto.“There was something that kind of irked me about the title,” said Schmidt. “As a librarian, my gut reaction to that was, ‘You know what else is a free library? A regular library.’”Schmidt and Hale wrote a recent article describing research they did about those tiny libraries and why they want to put an end to them. Their opposition was also the subject of a lengthy piece on CityLab earlier this month.According to Schmidt and Hale’s research that centered on Canadian cities Toronto and Calgary,  they  only noticed Little Free Libraries in Toronto’s wealthier neighborhoods.They concluded Little Free Libraries are found where public library branches are plentiful and where neighborhoods are white.While they concede their case study only took into account two cities they contend their findings confirm their suspicions about the organization:We submit that these data reinforce the notion that [Little Free Libraries] are examples of performative community enhancement, driven more so by the desire to showcase one’s passion for books and education than a genuine desire to help the community in a meaningful way.

[Little Free Libraries] are a highly visible form of self-gratification cleverly disguised as book aid…

Schmidt and Hale claim you’ll discover the libraries in abundance in hyper-educated, affluent, crunchy blue enclaves across the country where residents tend to wear their progressivism on their sleeves.

Apparently my neighbors are a rare exception.

Let’s bring in Todd Bol.

In 2009, Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse. It was a tribute to his mother; she was a teacher who loved to read. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard. His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away.

Bol is the co-founder and  executive director of Little Free Libraries.

He told CityLab:

“What happens is, somebody reads about us. They hear about us. And likely, who hears about us is a great champion of books and literacy. They put one in their neighborhood. They put one out their front door. Their neighbors put one in. That has a tendency to be a higher-echelon neighborhood.

“But then what happens in the community is they say, ‘Hey, you know what? Where they really need those libraries is down at the laundromat, or down at the trailer park, or in this high-needs neighborhood.’ And so the community starts spreading them.”

Back to the Canadian naysayer Schmidt:

“I acknowledge that we can seem like a couple of librarians touting sour grapes by crapping all over this movement that so many people love.”

On that she is soooo right.

Instead of crapping all over Little Free Libraries, why not work with Bol’s group to expand them into more areas and benefit more folks? We know Schmidt and Hale know how to do research. Put that expertise to an enriching campaign.

Big libraries will always be around and have nothing to worry about. As City Lab writes:

Nobody finds Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad in a Little Free Library—much less Wi-Fi, college counseling, or jobs services. A well-funded library system has little to fear

Hope you’ll read that long CityLab piece. There’s some delicious irony. Turns out librarians actually love and have given awards to the libraries.

A final note about Kayla’s Playground. Their Little Free Library looked nothing like the above picture when we visited over the weekend.

There were but four items inside: two children’s books and two magazines the kind you’d find in the doctor’s office. Warmer weather will bring bigger crowds. On your next stop why not take a book or two or more and help replenish our performative community enhancement.Save

Supervisor Steve F. Taylor May 2017 E-Newsletter

Please click here to view the May 2017 edition of “Privileged to Serve”, the monthly e-newsletter issued by my office.

This edition includes:

-Galland Henning Nopak, Inc.: 130th Anniversary

-Arbor Day 2017

-Body Worlds: Animals Inside Out

-Legislative Roundup

-Update contact list of Elected Officials

-2017 Travelling Beer Garden Dates

-Free days at the Milwaukee County Parks, museums, and the County Zoo.

-Upcoming events in our community.

I encourage you to forward this newsletter to anyone who may find it informative. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if I can be of assistance concerning any matter involving Milwaukee County.

All My Best,

Steve F. Taylor 

Milwaukee County Board, 2nd Vice Chairman

Economic & Community Development Committee Chairman

Milwaukee County Supervisor, 9th District

(414) 278-4267

(414) 223-1380 fax

Today’s highly interesting read (05/30/17): More Democrats see voter fraud as a problem and ID laws as a solution

Supporters of voter ID have known for many years that the group is more than conservatives. Democrats including minorities and the elderly approve of the requirement to vote.

Now comes a report in the Washington Times about a study/survey conducted by two professors demonstrating Democrats not only back voter ID, they see it as a solution to a problem. Bet you won’t hear all that much on this in the media.

“Most Americans, including Democrats, think voter fraud is a real problem and don’t mind voter ID laws as a solution, according to academic research that suggests Republicans are winning the argument over voting rights and suppression.”


One of the co-authors of the study, Patrick Miller, a liberal political science professor at the University of Kansas, couldn’t even bring himself to concede the truth of his very own findings. From the Washington Times:

“Republican voters view voter ID as a moral issue — a question of right or wrong. Democrats, meanwhile, ‘were victims of their own ignorance,’ the study concluded, not realizing that favoring voter ID could hurt their party’s goals.”

So if you’re a Democrat and you agree with Republicans on voter ID laws, according to the learned professor, that makes you…ignorant!

The University of Kansas where Miller works also published an article about the study that reads, in part:

Miller said separate from this study, other researchers have found that voter fraud occurs very rarely, and if it does, it is often because of clerical error and not malicious intent. However, much of the public believes voter fraud is a widespread problem and that voter ID laws are a potential solution.

African-Americans, Latinos, young voters, senior citizens and the poor are typically the most vulnerable to strict voter ID laws because they tend disproportionately to not have a government-issued photo IDs and tend to have the greatest difficulty obtaining that identification. However, Miller said, Americans in those subgroups also overwhelmingly support voter ID laws, believe that voter fraud is widespread, and reject the notion that voter ID suppresses turnout.

In a way, absolutely stunning, but not surprising to what proponents of voter ID have been saying for years. That’s why it’s highly unlikely this gets major news coverage.

Some school districts and I have concerns about “Right to Carry” but for different reasons

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting there’s opposition to state Senator Dave Craig’s “Right to Carry” proposal. We knew there would be.

The newspaper reports some school district officials are leery about the bill that is a huge priority for the author, state Senator Dave Craig who represents all of Franklin. They fear school safety will be compromised.

According to the Journal Sentinel the bill “would allow some gun holders to bring weapons into Wisconsin schools,” and that “schools would have to individually post signs prohibiting weapons under state trespassing laws in order to ban them from the grounds. Though illegal possession of a weapon in a school is currently a felony under state law, a violation of the trespassing provision in a school building is a class C misdemeanor.

The newspaper further reports, “Supporters of the bill maintain that the school grounds provision ensures parents who carry guns do not accidentally break the law when picking children up. The bill would allow those with a concealed carry permit to have a gun in their vehicle while taking children to or from school even if a school has posted notices.”

I agree wholeheartedly with that provision. However, there’s one paragraph in the Journal Sentinel article that sums up my opposition.

“Introduced by Rep. David Craig (R-Big Bend) and Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) in March, the bill, Senate Bill 169, also enables people to carry concealed firearms without a permit. The legislation would undo current state law, which mandates that concealed firearm carriers get training and a license.”

That portion of the legislation is one that Craig has routinely avoided in his public communications about the plan. I can understand his reluctance.  The prospect of carrying a gun without training from a professional expert can be alarming to many folks. The training requirement is a big reason Wisconsin was able to pass conceal carry in the first place.

A state Senate committee holds a public hearing on Craig’s bill Wednesday at the state Capitol. Maybe then we can get some answers from Craig as to why he thinks requiring training in order to conceal carry is so unreasonable.

“Blue Lives Matter” laws are ‘alarming’ to guess who?

On April 6, 2017, a state Assembly committee in Madison held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 48, the “Blue Lives Matter” bill.

The bill expands the persons who can be a victim of what is commonly known as a “hate crime” to include law enforcement officers. A hate crime is a crime in which the perpetrator selects the victim due to a perception or belief regarding the victim, such as the victim’s race, religion, color, or disability, or, under this bill, status as a law enforcement officer.

No action has been taken on the bill so far (BTW, Franklin’s state Senator, my state Senator, Dave Craig has not signed on as a co-sponsor of this bill).

Many states have passed this type of legislation in a response to the increase in assaults on police officers.

I strongly support this bill. It’s good legislation.

Seems the Associated Press doesn’t agree. To fulfill their template they sent out, not one, but two staffers to report that “Blue Lives Matter” policies are alarming…to activists and protesters.

Count me as unsympathetic.

Here’s the AP story.


Supporting our Police – When no one showed up at the party…


For the second time in three years no one came to the young boy’s birthday party. No one.

So his mom jumped on the neighborhood website,  and invited anyone to come to a party. Anyone.

Again, no one did.

So the boy’s parents desperately tried one more time.

The details are here.

The latest pro-life news (05/29/17)

From Pro-Life Wisconsin:

Thank you.

It’s impossible to say thank you enough to the men and women who gave their lives to keep this country free.

We owe them our freedom, and we have a responsibility to ensure freedom doesn’t end in this generation.

Pro-Life News

MISSOURI: A group of St. Louis Catholics filed a lawsuit against the city Monday over a local ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on “reproductive health decisions,” saying the law could force employers or landlords to go against their religious beliefs. PLW: The government can say something is legal, but it cannot determine morality. It’s up to our churches and private individuals to ensure government respects our fundamental freedoms.

BEN & JERRY’S: Let’s say that chocolate represents men and vanilla represents women. You take one scoop of chocolate and one scoop of vanilla and what do you get? Something new. Something distinct. A unique blend of the two flavors. Two entities that are different and yet similar now become one. PLW: The liberal ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s won’t allow Australian customers to order two scoops of the same flavor until the country recognizes “gay marriage.” Michael Brown explains their hypocrisy.

ANY OTHER NAME: Out of 1,800 abortion clinics in the U.S., including 730 stand-alone mills, how many would you expect to include the word “abortion” in their name? Try one: the Abortion Surgery Center in Norman, Okla. PLW: Abortion providers and supporters resort to euphemisms and misleading language to convince the culture abortion is OK.

MICHIGAN: A Michigan school district says it will not use a Planned Parenthood sex education program for students after its plan to work with the abortion chain sparked a strong public outcry. PLW: Ultimately, education of children is the responsibility of parents, and it’s parents who need to check in on the schools where they send their children. Parental feedback worked for this district in Michigan.

DEFUND PP: President Donald Trump proposed a victory for the pro-life movement in his 2018 fiscal budget by removing Planned Parenthood’s federal funds. PLW: President Trump’s budget strips Planned Parenthood of funding, and we applaud. This strong support for life shows the president was listening when pro-life citizens voted for him.

PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTERS: Almost everywhere you find an abortion clinic, you can find a CPC nearby. They have vague names referring to women and health and advertise that they can help pregnant women. PLW: This writer, clearly on the pro-abortion side of the issue, shows that abortion activists don’t want women to have more “choices” – like the ability to find help at a pro-life clinic.

MEMORIAL DAY: Memorial Day started off as a somber day of remembrance; a day when Americans went to cemeteries and placed flags or flowers on the graves of our war dead. It was a day to remember ancestors, family members, and loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice. But now, too many people “celebrate” the day without more than a casual thought to the purpose and meaning of the day. How do we honor the 1.8 million that gave their life for America since 1775? How do we thank them for their sacrifice? We believe Memorial Day is one day to remember.

To stay up-to-date all week, follow Pro-Life Wisconsin on Twitter..

From WI Right To Life.


Abortion activists feel the pressure amid state and federal moves to defund clinics

These practical pro-life programs help moms finish school

Trump was right

Planned Parenthood Dresses Turn Killing Babies in Abortions Into a Fashion Statement


One dad in Alabama is trying to help men out, especially single dads, when it comes to.bonding with their daughters.

The details are here.