If severe storms rumble through Tarrant County on Wednesday, there’s one city where outdoor warning sirens are guaranteed not to sound.
Mansfield, Tarrant County’s fourth-largest city, doesn’t have them and has no plans to install them.
Its residents — and the rest of North Texas — will need to pay attention to weather conditions on Wednesday as storms, possibly packing large hail, are expected move through the area late Wednesday afternoon or evening.
The Storm Prediction Center has placed the Dallas-Fort Worth area under an enhanced risk of severe storms.
Many cities across the U.S. are dismantling aging storm siren systems in favor of smart phone technology, according to AccuWeather.
In Mansfield, the city has relied upon the CodeRED alert system that notifies residents of impending storms and other emergencies. It’s capable of dialing 50,000 phone numbers per hour and delivering a recorded message. The alert system makes three attempts to reach each number.
It’s an opt-in system and about 12,000 residents have signed up for the weather alerts, Cutler said. Mansfield’s population is just under 69,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Though the City Council and residents have brought up the issue in the past, Mansfield has never purchased sirens for the 39-square miles it covers.
As a comparison, Arlington’s 52 sirens cover about 99 square miles. Each new siren costs about $40,000, said Irish Hancock, Arlington’s emergency management administrator.
In 2001, the Manfield City Council voted 4-3 to table a plan that would have purchased a $568,000 siren system. It also ended a discussion about placing a referendum on the ballot letting voters decide if the city should have an outdoor warning system.
Discussions came up again in 2007 and 2013, according to the Star-Telegram archives.
In 2017, some residents also complained to KXAS Channel 5 that relying strictly on cellphone technology was risky in a storm.
“My advice to everybody is to go out and get a weather radio,” said Greg Cutler, Mansfield’s emergency management coordinator.
Besides the cost and maintenance, Cutler said sirens have their limitations.
“They are not designed to alert people in their homes,” Cutler said. “That’s not what they are for. Many times people who are able to hear them will step outside — the exact opposite of what you want them to do which is go indoors.”
With cellphone notifications, weather apps as well as news broadcasts on television and radio, Cutler said he believes most residents are aware of impending storms.
Outdoor warning sirens might have a place in some parts of the city but not citywide, Cutler said.
“I think they could be strategically placed in certain areas for outdoor-use only,” Cutler said. “There might be a place for them on a smaller scale.”