In the event of a disaster, quickly letting people know can mean the difference between life and death.
Ben Smith looks at how Bismarck’s emergency notifications have evolved over the years and whether they’re still effective.
It’s a Friday morning.
You may be on your way to work, or perhaps drinking your morning coffee.
When you hear a sound that’s hard to miss.
“Well, you can’t help but notice it, because it’s pretty loud,” says Jan Kamphuis, Bismarck Resident
“The sirens are loud, each sirens ranges between 130, 135 decibels. So we have 20 rock concerts happening in Bismarck, because that’s the equivalent of a rock concert,” says Gary Stockert, Bismarck Emergency Manager
They typically go off the last Friday of every month, as a test for emergency services.
But what if it wasn’t a test?
“It could be a bad storm coming, or a nuclear bomb going off,” says Gleeson, Bismarck resident
“Currently probably protestors, everybody is freaking out about that right now,” says Mike Faris, Mandan resident
“Back in my age, because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the nuclear threats, people heard those sirens, and they thought more like air raids,” says Kamphuis
Sirens began to appear in the 1950’s, to warn of a possible bomb attack.
As Bismarck grew, so did the number of sirens. And their purpose began to evolve.
“By about 1970 is when outdoor warning sirens began to be used more commonly for tornado warnings. Once we got to a point with the development of ballistic missiles. The likelihood of a bomber attack, became much lower,” says Stockert
They can be used to warn of a hazardous chemical spill, or in the case of Grand Forks, the 1997 flood.
There still maintained today, in spite of many other means of emergency notification.
“Now a days, with the technology, you get instant warnings on your cell phone,” Kamphuis
“If there was an EMP or something that would wipe out your telephone and then that wouldn’t work, obviously the siren would be a better choice I guess,” says Faris
“There’s many methods of being notified and we don’t really want to rely on one system, because one system can fail us,” says Stockert
So a month from now, when a piercing wail disrupts your Friday morning routine…
“I don’t care how old you are, you hear that and you have to go, what’s that about,” says Kamphuis
You can take comfort that decades-old technology is still working to keep you safe.
Stockert says the sirens were recently used as tornado warnings in 2010 and 2011.
He says to avoid going outside if you expect the siren is not a test.