The Booneville Police Department last week dealt with a few unhappy would-be safe room campers when they found the tornado safe rooms at the Booneville Elementary and Booneville High School still locked last Monday night.
That was because the policy on when the safe rooms open was put in place by the school, according to Booneville Mayor Jerry Wilkins. That policy states when the tornado sirens are sounded the safe rooms will be opened.
The buildings are opened automatically when the siren is activated. The newest safe room, between the junior high and high schools, was installed with receivers that open the building. The safe room at the elementary school was, at that time, retrofitted with equipment to allow it to open as well.
Both of those systems have been checked twice this spring, Booneville Police Chief Al Brown said last week.
According to Brown the city activates the sirens only when Logan County is placed under a tornado warning by the National Weather Service. Logan County was under a tornado watch for several hours Monday morning and Tuesday night but never under a warning.
Brown said he understands a school official did open at least one of the buildings but he continued to iterate, "the police department does not control the safe rooms."
The policy on sounding the siren only on tornado warnings is not apt to change, Brown said, because if it does, a crying wolf scenario could be established.
"What will happen is if we just have a little old thunderstorm and people seek shelter and then they’re like ‘why are they setting the sirens off, it’s just a thunderstorm. There’s not a tornado. They never said there was a tornado.’" said Brown. "Then when we set the sirens off they’ll be like ‘it’s just a thunderstorm.’"
Brown said there is a scenario whereby the siren would be activated by his department.
"Even if (a tornado warning) is not issued but a local meteorologist on Channel 5 or 40/29 said they see a rotation I would call down here and we would set the sirens off anyway," said Brown.
Such an event chain took place in Paris Monday night Brown said.
However, sirens in Paris were not activated because, according to a Logan County Emergency Management Facebook page post, the sirens in Paris were not operational because of issues related to a change over from analog to a digital radio frequency.