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What is the situation with Norwalk's 'outside warning systems'?

Cary Ashby • Aug 8, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Questions have been raised about why the Norwalk-area outdoor sirens didn’t activate during a confirmed EF1 tornado Tuesday.

Norwalk Safety-Service Director Ellen Heinz told council members the sirens didn’t sound due to a “mechanical wiring issue” possibly at the communications center — not at the sirens themselves.

“We are still investigating that,” she added.

The city has called in technical experts to inspect the 10 sirens. They were tested about noon Wednesday and the sirens were heard from the Norwalk Reflector newsroom at 5:32 p.m. and again 10 minutes later.

“We don’t have all the results in. Not all the sirens went off,” Heinz said. “About half of them were working.” 

After all the maintenance work is done, the safety-service director said she hopes “closer to 80 percent” of the sirens will function.

Heinz has been keeping council updated on the sirens situation. During the July 16 work session, she said it would cost between $5,000 and $8,000 to move an old unit to a new location. The estimate to purchase a new siren is $20,000 to $25,000.

“It’s a rough estimate,” Heinz said Wednesday.

Some issues to be addressed, she added, is whether it’s smarter to move functioning sirens to new locations or buy new ones to replace those at the end of their life-cycles.

Residents have raised concerns about not being able to hear the sirens when they are inside.

“They are meant to be outside warning systems,” Heinz said.

The safety-service director was asked what should residents do if they want to be alerted about severe weather. Heinz recommended residents use the Huron County Everbridge system and stay in touch with the Norwalk Police Department on Facebook. Everbridge sends out emergency alerts via email and text to local subscribers.

Heinz said the city wants residents to have all the possible options available so they can stay “as up-to-date and progressive as possible” when it comes to severe weather news.

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