, Muskogee, OK

May 17, 2013

Be safe, heed storm warnings

— An experimental warning system for dangerous storms is being rolled out across portions of the United States.

It’s comforting and should be a source of pride to learn a similar system has been in place in Oklahoma since the mid-1990s.

The system Oklahoma has been using allows the National Weather Service to be able to more precise in its warnings to the public.

The system has been rolled out in other states. It has been so successful that it has been approved for more widespread use.

The Impact Based Warnings system began following deadly tornadoes in 2011 in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Each tornado caused mass casualties, which helped spur the change.

The IBW’s goal is to create tiers of warnings that not only provide more information but grab enough attention to provoke a response, he said. Emergency managers across the nation are discovering a problem all too familiar to those in Oklahoma: People ignore sirens. They ignore storm warnings.

The IBW was created with three goals:

• To provide additional valuable information to media and emergency management officials.

• To facilitate improved public response and decision making.

• To better meet societal needs in the most life-threatening weather events.

While it is important to applaud efforts being made to keep us safer, we must remind everyone to heed those warnings, too.

Pay attention and be safe.