Video: Why doesn't Florida use sirens?

By Kerry Sanders Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/5/2007 7:45:10 PM ET 2007-02-06T00:45:10

On Monday, tornado survivors in Central Florida began asking if they could have had better warning.

NOAA's National Weather Service records show that early Friday morning it broadcast emergency alerts 16, 11 and nine minutes before the three tornadoes touched down.

But victim Rikki Rainey says she's never heard of the specialized all-hazards emergency weather radios upon which the alerts were broadcast.

In the Midwest's tornado alley, sirens warn residents to take cover. In Florida, however, sirens exist only near nuclear power plants in case of a leak.

Florida officials say sirens are ineffective. They don't broadcast specifics about what to do. And while other states may have long-standing siren systems, emergency managers here say building one from the ground up now doesn't make sense.

More common are reverse 911 systems that call up to 2,000 residents per minute and are commonly used during hurricanes.

"We didn't have time to even activate the reverse 911," says Bill Farmer, Sumter County sheriff, of Friday's tornadoes. "It was in here and out of here."

It's why Monday night, state officials say they may offer those weather radios — which cost as little as $16 — tax free, so everyone will have a chance to know when a twister is coming.

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