Tower Scanner Anderson Repeater Club, Inc. Tornado

 Madison County - Anderson, Indiana

History – Madison County SKYWARN/Stormnet

The severe weather observation program for Madison County developed along with the Anderson Repeater and the Anderson Repeater Club. The Amateurs of the County had long supported the Civil Defense organization, but with the increase in popularity of the FM mode, the construction of a local repeater, and the availability of “police scanners” the basic items were in place to develop a useful network. The repeater had been in the development and construction phase for several years, and in 1971 a suitable site was obtained. Nationally, a fledgling SKYWARN concept was developing, and our County was anxious to participate as a means of public service.

In the summer of 1971 the Club developed the basic concepts and organization of the SKYWARN Network. Severe weather alerts gave us a chance to try out different ideas as to how we wanted the system to operate. Initial discussions with the Sheriff’s department and the Anderson Fire dispatch leadership about allowing an Amateur in the dispatch points were conducted. The plan was accepted as a way to improve the sounding of the warning sirens in Anderson.

The first training classes were held in the spring of 1972. Many of the active amateurs participated. Through the ‘70’s the yearly training was held in March, utilizing local weather experts, weathermen, and some information from the National Weather Service. In the late ‘70’s a “tone alert board” was developed for monitor receivers that would detect a “star” tone sent via the repeater to alert observers. Over 50 of the boards were distributed and many were built and placed in service. Presentations were made to a number of clubs and civic organizations explaining CD and the overall SKYWARN program.

Throughout the ‘80s, yearly training sessions were held for the benefit of the amateur operator observers. Each year new information was being made available resulting in improvements in the understanding of the observers and the Warning Division members who were analyzing the data. A Countywide warning system was implemented on the Civil Defense commercial radio system, and receivers were placed in county facilities, at each radio station in the county and at each school system administrative office. Additionally, amateurs acted as “observers” during the yearly school tornado drills. The observation points and the overall communications procedures were solidified during this time. Amateur interest continued to be high with nearly 100 people at the yearly training sessions. The recognition of the program increased as a result of presentations on the local radio stations, and a method of “breaking into” the Anderson cable TV system with emergency announcements.

In the ‘90’s in addition to a continuation of participation by amateurs throughout the County a major effort was made to interest the volunteer fire departments and the town police departments in the training and monitoring of the network. The yearly training sessions saw from 7 to 15 different departments represented. The actual training was presented by TV weathermen, the National Weather Service and Warning Division staff on a rotating basis. Each year the observers were updated with handouts and refreshers on operating policies and procedures. A quantity of alert monitors were purchased by the County Emergency Management and distributed to the County facilities, the radio stations and schools. Additionally, business and industry was encouraged to obtain monitor receivers and many did. Throughout this decade the participation by Amateurs was outstanding. A typical alert for severe weather would result in 35 to 50 checkins. Although sponsored by Emergency Management, amateurs who were not members were actively encouraged to participate. The EOC was regularly activated to coordinate the network. The Sheriff’s department dispatch system played an active role by communicating with the network on the EMA commercial channels. Information flowed both ways freely.

The year 2000 continued the training requirements of the Amateurs and the active participation and acceptance by police and fire services. The name of the program was changed from SKYWARN to “Stormnet” to emphasize all severe weather occurrences, not just tornado alerts. A new logo was introduced. Support by the volunteer fire departments was outstanding with most monitoring the network during all severe weather occurrences. Madison County was recognized in 2001 as a “Storm Ready Community” supported almost entirely by the structure that had been developed over the years by the SKYWARN/Stormnet program.

As Madison County radio amateurs enter the 21st. century the support of Stormnet continues strong. Nearly 200 local Hams have participated in our training, and we currently have over 80 who have received training or updates within the last three years. Hams supporting the City of Anderson Emergency Management link our County to the National Weather Service statewide network, and assist in weather analysis. This high level of interest results in the Madison County Stormnet program being viewed as the benchmark for all others.


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