The sirens are activated by the Isabella County 911 Dispatch Center receiving official notification from the National Weather Service that Isabella County is under a Tornado Warning.
The sirens can also be activated at the request of a public safety officer within our county when they spot a life threatening situation such as a funnel cloud, large damaging hail, or other potential threat.
If after a severe weather event (winds, tornado, etc) residents cell phones and/ or land lines should become unable to dial 911 or 989-773-1000 and reach Isabella County Central Dispatch, the plan is for neighborhood fire departments to "man" (make sure staff are available at) their stations for citizens to report a request for help. At that time emergency responders will be actively searching for people that need help as well , but can not leave their residences.
First, be sure that you are not hearing the All Clear Siren which is usually sounded when the National Weather Service has issued a Tornado Warning Cancellation or Expiration. This siren sound is different than the Take Shelter Siren sound.
Second, because many of the people who reported for the Emergency Management Office correctly reported which sound they heard, it is important to know that the Grand Rapids Weather Radar emits its Doppler radar beam on an angle from the Grand Rapids office near the Kent County Airport. The beam is on a slight angle that when it is reporting for Isabella County, the angle results in the beam being almost a mile above ground. Isabella County seems to have some weather events that are occurring lower than what the beam can immediately see/recognize. This is where first responders and trained civilian volunteer weather spotters are critical.
Isabella County annually hosts at least one spotter class each spring. Classes are free and open to the general public. Trained spotters assist Isabella County by reporting directly to the National Weather Service who can then issue more accurate warnings and watches based on trained spotter information.