JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa - It’s been three years since the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency changed its policy for sounding outdoor warning sirens during severe storms, but many people are still adjusting.
The county sounds the sirens for a threat of wind gusts of at least 70 miles an hour or if golf ball sized hail is expected. On Sunday officials sounded the warning system across the entire county as a severe thunderstorm threatened to the west.
“We want to give people sufficient lead time to get inside, seek shelter,” said Dave Wilson, Johnson County Emergency Management Coordinator.
The activation of the sirens caused several people to call 911, the sheriff’s office and local dispatchers. All calls are handled at the Joint Emergency Communications Center.
“The storm hasn’t hit yet, the siren went off and then it stopped?” said one caller.
Another caller noted that the “sun was [still] out.”
“My emergency is there is a storm coming through in Solon, Iowa and I don’t know where our storm shelter is that we’re supposed to go to,” said another caller who called 911 directly. “I’m about to panic,” she later said.
Wilson said he hopes by activating the sirens early people will seek shelter and prepare for a storm.
“Go inside and tune into local media,” he said.
Officials also say identifying a “safe place” from the storm should be done well before a storm arrives. Typically that is a low-level room away from any windows.