Twister Warnings Integrated With LED Ad Boards in Twin Cities

April 17, 2013 by Dave Haynes


County authorities in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area have introduced a new service that drives tornado alerts onto digital billboards around the twin cities.

The roadside alert system is a collaboration between Hennepin and Ramsey counties’ emergency management divisions, ClearChannel Outdoor and the U.S. National Weather Service.

PA_news_tornadobillboards_4The new system was tested in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday (with big TEST strips across the alert message) with the intention of making drivers aware of a tornado warning in their vicinity.

The goal of the partnership, says a news release, is to offer early warning and new training to drivers, who may be unable to hear tornado sirens inside their cars, or who may not be listening to radio stations that would warn them of a safety threat. The concept takes advantage of drivers’ natural conditioning to absorb the content on roadside signs.

Motorists and their passengers have proven to be a difficult audience to reach when severe weather strikes. According to the National Weather Service, 9 percent of the people who were killed by tornadoes in the United States between 1985 and 2008 were in their cars.

From now on, a National Weather Service-issued tornado warning will trip a targeted system to override commercial programming, starting in 15-minute increments, which can be extended if necessary. The company owns 22 of the billboards in Hennepin County and nine in Ramsey County. Eventually, the hope is to expand the alerts to all 47 of the billboards around the metro area.

ClearChannel Outdoor is providing the service at no cost to the county.

Digital signage in Light Rail Transit stations is also equipped for written and audio warnings.

This just makes sense, and if this is not something already being done in the hyperactive tornado belt that stretches through Oklahoma and Kansas (and early in the year down to Mississipi and Alabama) it should be.

Amber Alerts have been integrated for years now on many public display systems, and safely alerts on higher ed campuses are (sadly) commonplace. Anyone who has watched video of motorists unwittingly driving towards a twister will understand how this messaging system could make a difference.

photo credit: dirtymouse via photopin cc

Leave a comment