The number of methods for receiving information about potentially dangerous situations has exploded in the last five years.
In the aftermath of last week's Boston Marathon bombing many people learned they can listen to police scanners from all over on their computers or smartphones. They can get updates on those same devices from their local police and sheriff's departments, as well as state Amber Alerts. Armed with a newer cellphone, they can sign up to receive warnings wherever they are. People in some areas, like Kewaunee County, can receive phone calls in addition to the siren sounding. They can receive National Weather Service alerts on any device you can name. They can watch TV or listen to the radio. They can go to their favorite online news source and check for updates.
All this technology makes the warning sirens from the Cold War era seem almost quaint.
But you needn't be a Luddite to rely on the sirens that are sounded for tornado warnings.
The siren is just as important to a segment of the population that may be off the grid, not tethered to the chirps and beeps of their smartphones or computers, or just outside enjoying the wild, water and woods of Wisconsin.
Last week's statewide tornado drill led to some concerns in Brown County about sirens that didn't work. Press-Gazette Media heard from people in several communities who said they didn't hear the warning siren at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
Brown County plans to check on the tornado warning system during the weekly test at noon Wednesday.
That's a smart, responsive move by the county. Last week's statewide drill showed potential problems with some of the sirens, following up during a regularly scheduled test less than a week later makes sense.
It also makes sense to fix the nonoperating ones and not just scrap them. While some might advocate to moving away from sirens and relying on cellphone alerts, the sirens still serve a purpose for a populace that plays and works outside a lot. The county and municipalities should work together to get the malfunctioning sirens repaired.
Brown County should then inform the public where the nonworking sirens are.
But safety must be a team effort. Brown County residents who are indoors may not hear sirens so they should consider purchasing weather radios or have a way to get the latest news.
Many of us already know the drill and turn to TV, radio and websites when bad weather approaches. With so much focus on the weather, dangerous conditions rarely sneak up on us anymore.
However, tornadoes are unpredictable, and if you're outside you may be unaware of the severity of approaching weather.
In the meantime, we encourage the county to fix nonworking sirens, even if the information they provide is redundant for many people. Over-informing the public about such things as the potential for a tornado is OK. We can deal with that because the alternative - no information - is unacceptable.