Officials: Sirens don’t work here

Published 6:33 pm Saturday, May 6, 2017

The April 30 weather system that hit the area with high winds and rain and what was believed to be three tornadoes that may have hit the county has some residents wondering why the county does not have tornado sirens to warn of impending danger.

But county officials say the county’s terrain, plus the cost of installing, operating and maintaining tornado sirens in the county makes it prohibitive to install such a system here.

Board of Supervisors president Richard George said the supervisors at one time looked at tornado sirens because the sirens in the county were provided by the Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station as a part of its emergency evacuation plan.

“Over the years, when in service, they were constantly in repair and upgraded, but that meant that some of the older ones had to be replaced and that was another expense. We haven’t had them in a long time. Right off hand, I don’t know where there’s one standing unless it’s a old one.”

The problem with sirens, George said, is “the expanse of the county, (and) just the sheer cost of putting enough sirens in the county. When you’re using public money you need to try to provide as uniform service as you can. That’s why we went to Code Red.”

Warren County Emergency Management director John Elfer said sirens cost $28,000 each. The county’s Code Red telephone warning system, which sends telephone and text messages of severe weather notices costs the county about $15,000 a year.

And Warren County’s changing terrain, with its hills, hollows and ravines, makes it that much more difficult to set up a siren system that can adequately cover the area.

“In order to provide the kind of coverage in that terrain, it’s very difficult, very, very expensive, and sirens by virtue of the way you have to communicate with them to even sound them, and the cost of maintenance was even more prohibitive, so we went to the code red.

Besides the costs and county’s topography, Elfer points out another drawback to sirens. “If you’re in a well insulated house, you can’t hear a siren,” he said. “The sirens were a big thing in the 50s and 60s with Civil Defense with the air raid sirens, but the technology has changed, and sirens aren’t as effective as they once were.

“People are better off subscribing to Code Red, which will notify you if severe weather is coming. They can also use a weather app on their smart phones, and get a weather radio. It’s always good to have two ways to getting warnings.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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