A siren song for outdated signals

Stacey Hartley • Oct 11, 2019 at 3:41 PM

Tornado sirens and other public warning systems were discussed earlier this week during a safety committee meeting. 

Committee members considered the placement of the nine working sirens in Huron County and the life-expectancy for those structures — some of which are several years old. 

Ellen Heinz, the committee chair and the city’s safety-service director, presented research to the group including how much other communities spend on sirens and other early-warning systems, how long the structures can function — with maintenance. Heinz found Norwalk could purchase a new siren-system for less than other communities, some spending more than $40,000.

But the location of one outdoor siren in particular, for Veterans Memorial Lake Park, would be the first priority requiring the city’s approval. City employees were recently sent to several locations in the area to make sure sirens could be heard — where the distance between neighbors are further apart.

“We’re very thankful for the outdoor emergency sirens we have,” Heinz said. “But we (feel) the reservoir — for an outdoor warning siren — is probably the most important, because that’s the place where we have the most likelihood of residents being outside — not near cover or shelter, not in their homes, not at work.” 

Members weighed whether to purchase a new siren for the reservoir, with minimal maintenance required for close to a decade, at $23,000 to $25,000 with a life-span of 15-20 years, versus moving one of the nine sirens to the reservoir — a process that would cost at least $8,000 and could need maintenance within two years. 

The safety-service director then shed light on the recent series of seemingly misfired siren signals.

Heinz shared the fire department wanted to be forward-thinking and retest their signal as the secondary signal location, since the police department — being the primary location — was testing theirs that day. While the police department’s signal did malfunction with an additional signal, in addition to a similar instance by the fire department the month before, she assured that since those incidents, both the police and fire departments’ sirens are working properly. 

When asked about a possible timeline for a new siren being installed — with the city’s approval in the safety-service budget — Heinz told the committee, “If we get the money allocated for next year’s budget, we could have the new one. ... Up and running by early spring or late winter.”  




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