EMA: Don’t depend on sirens

Published 12:03 am Thursday, May 19, 2011

This map illustrates the 11 sirens needed to cover a small portion of northern Covington County. Each siren costs approximately $20,000 each. | Courtesy graphic

County EMA director Susan Harris said Wednesday that local residents should not depend solely on outside warning sirens in times of severe weather.

Harris said Wednesday’s siren test was conducted to work out a few minor issues found during last week’s regularly scheduled testing.

During the day’s testing, She said many residents in the rural areas of the county complained that they were unable to hear the sirens. There are 21 sirens in the county – five in Andalusia, four in Opp, and one each in Florala, Gantt, Heath, Straughn, Babbie, Onycha, Pleasant Home, Carolina, Libertyville, Sanford, River Falls and Red Level.

Harris said complaints were also received about why the sirens weren’t sounded during the severe weather last Friday.

“Several citizens reported seeing a tornado that Friday near Gorum Bridge Road, but the county was never put under a tornado warning and no one reported the tornado until Monday,” she said.

“I have to have official notification from Mobile Weather or from an officially trained weather spotter before the siren can be activated,” she said. “I’d love for the entire county to be covered by the sirens, but funds are not available to accomplish that task.”

For example, Harris said it would take 11 sirens to cover the northwest corner of the county, down to Grange Forge Road over to Turkey Creek Road.

“Each siren is $20,000 which is a total of $220,000,” she said. “There are approximately 700 homes in that area. So if we averaged it out per house, so that comes to $3,171.43 per household. It is more feasible for these residents to purchase a NOAA weather radio, which are around $40 each, for their warning system.”

During times of severe weather, Harris said the first tone is sounded once the county is placed under a tornado warning. A second tone is used during any other kind of disaster such as a hazardous material spill or during evacuations, she said.

“Those sirens are sounded to warn those who are outside of structures to seek shelter,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to have a NOAA weather radio inside the home since those are manufactured for inside use.”