EMA: Don’t depend solely on sirens

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

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

Harris said that after this past weekend’s severe weather, some residents complained about not hearing the sirens.

Weather sirens are designed to alert people who are outdoors, Harris said.

Weather sirens are designed to alert people who are outdoors, Harris said.

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 the siren in the Libertyville area was struck by lightning and is not working.

“It could be a while before it is in working condition and I will notify everyone, when it is up and running again,” she said.

Harris said there is protocol for her to sound the sirens.

“I must have official notification from Mobile Weather or from an officially-trained weather spotter before the outside warning sirens are 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. ”

Harris said, for example, 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. If we averaged it out per house, the total cost per household is $3,171.43. It is more feasible for these residents to purchase a NOAA weather radio, which costs approximately $40, for their warning system.”

Harris said it’s important for locals to have multiple ways of getting warning information. NOAA weather radios, several apps on your iPhone, battery operated radios to get local news, and also the outside warning sirens.

“I test the outside warning sirens the first Wednesday of each month at 10 a.m.,” she said. “If there happens to be bad weather the day of testing, the test will be postponed. The test will last for two minutes. The first minute is a siren sound, which is for tornado warnings only. The second sound is an air horn and when you hear that sound, please tune to the local radio stations to get further information. It could be any kind of disaster/event such as a hazardous material spill or during evacuations and more instruction will be given from the radio stations. “