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Mobile County to Phase Out Midcentury System of Outdoor Warning Sirens

Posted on: Feb 23rd, 2022 | News and AnnouncementsPress Releasesfeatured news

IMAGE:  Mobile County’s oldest outdoor warning siren, a Federal Signal Model Thunderbolt 1003 installed June 28, 1954.  Located at Lat/Long 30.6313000, -088.1024167 (off NAVCO Road at Lusher Park/Dog River), it is one of Mobile County’s original Civil Defense sirens.


MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. – Mobile County Emergency Management Agency’s outdoor warning sirens will not be repaired or replaced and the system will cease operating this year, according to the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency Authority Board.


Mobile County residents are strongly encouraged to engage more precise and efficient means of receiving location-based emergency alerts including: 

“In the past, the outdoor warning sirens were the only means of alerting local residents to tornados or hazardous materials events, but current technology provides faster, more efficient, more cost-effective and much more accurate location-based warnings,” said Shayne Lovitte, Saraland Fire Rescue Chief of Operations and President of the Mobile County Emergency Management Agency Authority Board.


“The siren system created post-WWII was effective for its day, but is now severely limited in range, usage and is no longer aligned to where people live since Mobile County’s population has shifted to the west and south,” said Mobile County Commission President Merceria Ludgood.  “It is not feasible to rebuild an antiquated system when there are more precise warning devices available that can warn residents of far more than tornados or hazardous materials events,” she added.


“With advancements in technology, it is time we redirect our resources from the outdoor siren system to faster, more efficient warning systems. We are now able to issue warnings to broader audiences and to citizens in specific geographic areas with messages that clearly identify threats and provide directions for how to take swift action and get to safety. These systems are a better use of our collective resources and will provide the greatest level of protection for our community moving forward,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.   


The decision to phase out the outdoor warning siren system was based on a cost-benefit analysis of updating the operating technology and aligning the system to current population centers. The existing system of 47 operational outdoor warning sirens covers less than 10% of Mobile County and uses radio-based technology that is becoming more difficult to repair as time progresses. To properly upgrade and position the siren system to cover Mobile County’s population, approximately 300 new outdoor warning sirens would be needed, most in the fast-growing south and west portions of the county. Each existing siren has an approximately 1-mile outdoor auditory radius (much less if people are indoors). Additionally, the system does not allow only one siren to be activated, so a localized event like a waterspout near Dauphin Island requires that every one of Mobile County’s sirens sound.


Mobile County’s oldest outdoor warning siren has been in service since 1954 and the newest since 2016. Four of the outdoor warning sirens became operational in the 1950s and most are more than 20 years old.


“Spending an estimated $15 million to update a system established around the time of World War II is not an effective use of resources, particularly when wireless emergency alerts, smartphone apps and weather radios provide faster, more location-pinpointed information,” said Mobile County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Mike Evans, who coordinated the cost-benefit analysis. 


This decision only applies to Mobile County maintained and operated outdoor warning sirens, it will not impact privately maintained sirens.



Mobile County Emergency Management Agency is the local government entity that works to protect life and property in emergency situations by motivating residents to prepare for emergencies, coordinating and communicating information in a timely manner, educating the public about hazards and response planning, mobilizing needed resources to respond to emergency situations and by acting swiftly and efficiently when disasters strike.


Originally created in 1952 as Mobile County Civil Defense by action of the Board of Revenue and Road Commissioners of Mobile County (now Mobile County Commission), MCEMAA serves as the oversight authority for Mobile County Emergency Management Agency. MCEMAA members are the elected County Commissioners and Mayors as well as appointed representatives from Mobile County and each municipality. Its three-person executive committee is empowered to transact business on behalf of MCEMAA. 


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