Here in Warren County, Kentucky, we call them COWS.
COWS is an acronym for Community Outdoor Warning Sirens.
The word “outdoor” means just that. They were never designed to be heard inside.
I hear this complaint all the time… “I can’t hear the COWS in my house, I wish they’d put one nearby” or “those things don’t work, you can’t even hear them!”
The problem isn’t the need for more sirens, it’s from those that refuse to take personal responsibility for their own safety. No safety measure works unless you use them and use them correctly. That may not be what you want to hear but it’s an unfortunate truth in today’s culture. You cannot solely depend on just one stopgap measure to protect you. Outdoor warning sirens should be considered one part of a full arsenal of severe weather tools working to warn you along with apps, text alerts, NOAA weather radio, local TV and radio.
Choose at least two of these, maybe three to help keep you safe. Always have a plan.
The system of outdoor warning sirens – around 30 of them in Warren County – are tested on a regular basis to make sure all the mechanical parts are working. When there’s a problem, the Warren County Office of Emergency Management replaces the parts including the communication links back to their office, 911 dispatch and the National Weather Service.
Normally, the sirens are tested on the first Tuesday in March. That would be today. However, due to this weekend’s winter storm, the test has been pushed one more day to Wednesday at 9:07am CT. This is when a TEST Tornado Warning will be issued which you will see on WBKO and will also hear it on NOAA weather radio as well as the outdoor sirens.
The first COWS were installed in Warren County just two weeks before a huge severe weather outbreak on April 16, 1998 that spawned tornadoes, intense flooding and the largest hail size on record for Bowling Green at nearly 3 inches in diameter. The damage done (by 1998 estimates) was over $500 million.
To this day, the COWS network is credited for saving many lives on that eventful day in 1998 as they sounded for the first time.
For kids playing ball at the park, farmers working in the field or contractors at a construction site, the outdoor warning sirens alert them to come inside and away from danger. For you, a personal INDOOR warning siren – a NOAA Weather Radio is best. It will wake you at any hour of the day or night and not just for weather but for any hazard that may affect the safety of the general public.
So, the next time you hear the COWS sounding an alarm, whether for test or for real, understand why they are there. It’s to bring people indoors to turn on their TV or listen to NOAA weather radio to find out what’s going on.