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Thread: Emergency sirens

  1. #1

    Emergency sirens

    Like many communities, we received a grant for installation of "emergency sirens". I was defaulted as the engineer who had all the maps, therefore could easily draw circles (representing range of sound) on the map to best cover the residents of the City. There was NO consideration for proximity to houses, and no public input, as we felt that no one would want them, and the locations were not up for debate. They all ended up in public right of way, or city owned property. The one nearest the downtown (most dense residential), has drawn the most flack I have spent about 2 hours this week on the phone with irate neighbors to these sirens. etc. Most of the complaints are regarding the aesthetics. The fact that they will blare 127 dB at 100' doesn't seem to phase them. Their other contention, is that the siren's proximity to their house, devalues their property. So they are basically saying, "yes this is a good thing, but not put near my house", or "devalue my neighbor's property". I'm sure if we asked, no one would want one nearby. I have been threatened with attorneys, and residents have threatened to leave if we don't relocate these poles. Has anyone else dealt with this horse-crap?
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Finally a subject that I have some personal ties too. I'm a volunteer firefighter (as well as a professional planner). Our sirens don't even sound anymore because of all the complaints that came from the neighbors. Granted we only run about 250 times a year, that's 250 times that siren doesn't need to sound I guess. The firehouse near us only sounds the sirens from 8am-6pm and not on Sundays (church near by). I won't go into the reasons that it's still a good idea to have the audible sirens (doing outside work, pager in other room, etc.) even though most firefighters now a days use a pager system.

    If it's a noise problem I read an article I will try to find it ... found it. I don't know if This helps you at all but a smaller town is having issues with sirens.

    As far as asthetics goes, could these sirens be painted blue or green to match the surrounding environments? Or the poles, could they be stained dark like nearby trees? It's all about preception so if you can minimize the fact that they are even there less people may complain.

    Hope this helps.

    Jeff

    PS. Yeah! my 25th post, avatar time.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Plus
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    After our F3 tornado Sunday Nov. 6 - sirens have become one of many issues around here.

    From our fair city's newspaper editorial today:
    Tornado Warnings
    The Issue: Some were warned; some were not.
    Our View: It's important to determine how the system performed.

    As we begin to regain our balance from the shock of Sunday's deadly tornado, it may be time to ask how well or how poorly our warning system worked. Obviously, no warning system can do anything about saving homes and buildings. A warning system is intended to save lives and prevent injuries. But given the toll in deaths and injuries Sunday, we must ask whether the system could have worked better. Here's what we know:

    According to news reports from Jimmy Nesbitt and other Evansville Courier & Press staff writers, television viewers were alerted Saturday night to the possibility of storms moving into the area early Sunday. Given that tornado season had passed, there seemed no reason to be particularly alarmed by that. Many of us went to bed.

    But those still up and tuned in to WEHT-News25 Chief Meteorologist Wayne Hart learned at 1:40 a.m. that he thought there was a chance that a tornado that had formed in Henderson County, Ky., might hit the South Side of Evansville. He advised viewers to alert others who might be sleeping. At that point, the National Weather Service had issued a warning only for Henderson County in Kentucky and Posey County in Indiana.

    At 1:49 a.m., the National Weather Service at Paducah, Ky., issued its tornado warning for Vanderburgh County. That's when the tornado sirens began to blow. Within 10 minutes, but nearly 20 minutes after Hart's warning, the F-3 tornado ripped through Eastbrook Mobile Home Park. As we have heard from survivors, some people got the word, but many didn't. Before it was finished, the twister would leave in its path at least 23 dead and at least 200 injured.

    There's a list of reasons people might not have gotten or paid attention to warnings : They were sound asleep; it was the wrong season; they were complacent about the sirens, which sound for many storms; they were out of earshot of the sirens; or the roar of the storm drowned out the sirens.

    Perhaps, as some readers have suggested, the sirens need two warning sounds - one for all threatening storms and another specifically for when tornadoes are a real possibility.

    We noticed as well from a graphic published in the Courier & Press on Wednesday that the mobile home park is outside a one-mile radius of any of the emergency sirens, although it was also reported that the sirens can be heard within a two- to three-mile radius, depending on conditions. It's not clear whether even under the best of conditions the sirens' sound would have reached the park.

    Also, weather forecasters say the sirens are intended to alert people outside to go inside, rather than wake people asleep inside.

    The timing of weather warnings is a key concern. If Hart figured out the danger 20 minutes before, then might weather service personnel on the ground nearer to Evansville have done the same?

    This is an old issue in Evansville, which once had a manned weather station. In a reorganization, that responsibility was shifted to Paducah. However, after several years of lobbying, Evansville secured Doppler radar for the region, located at Owensville, Ind. National Weather Service personnel at Paducah said radar equipment worked great Sunday. If that's so, then what part of the system didn't?

    Hart said, "(The NWS) could have thrown Evansville into that first warning. They may have thought that (the tornado) was going to stay south of the river."

    Hart said, as well, that it is important for homes to have weather radios. He compares them to smoke alarms. But even some weather radios did not work Sunday morning. Digital weather radios did work in issuing a warning, according to Nesbitt's report, but those that receive a 1,050-hertz tone stayed silent. The weather service is investigating the cause.

    It is fair, and essential to this discussion, to point out that the speed with which the tornado formed before it tore into the trailer park and Newburgh may have rendered some warnings ineffective. It is a point that will have to be weighed by experts in assessing how the system worked. As for those of us who survived, it is a near certainty that we will assess our own attitudes and preparedness. We will pay closer attention to the warnings. We may purchase a weather radio. For a while, at least, we will make sure we have fresh batteries. And we will pay close attention to what experts tell us about how our warning system worked Sunday morning.
    Oddball
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    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian SW MI Planner's avatar
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    What are your sirens for? Do they go off every time the fire depts get a call? If so, I think I agree with the neighbors - I wouldn't want to here it multiple times a day either.

    ((It's bad enough that I have to hear my husbands pager and the scanner 24/7))

    We have tornado sirens here, that they test once per month (the first Saturday at noon). I haven't heard any complaints about them.

  5. #5

    Well

    I heard they are going to be tested weekly. Apparently, Erie County was awarded a Homeland security grant for these and now we get 4 in our city. I am only assuming that they will be used for natural disasters (tornadoes) and maybe level red warnings for homeland security (which will be too late). Needless to say, they are 50' tall timber poles with 350lbs of siren on top, so no they aren't pretty, maybe we could add some branches..????
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    In 1998 we had a tornado and the sirens didn't go off.
    In the early morning hours of March 28, 1998, Mattoon was struck by another tornado. The twister bounced across town leaving a quarter mile wide path of destruction. When it was over, six businesses and eight homes were destroyed, 92 other homes were damaged, 20 of which were with significant damage, and three injuries were reported.

    The storm touched down at approximately 5:25 a.m. Saturday cutting a path one-fourth of a mile wide and nearly a mile long from Rudy Avenue and 19th Street to Ninth St. and Charleston Ave. Wind speeds reached as high as 152 m.p.h.

    It was unusual that the tornado struck early in the morning because tornadoes normally strike at the warmest point in the day. It was also at the back end of a storm instead of the front. The storm was weakening when the twister hit.

    There had been a tornado watch in the area but it was allowed to expire at 5:00 a.m. There were no spotters in the field, as a result, no sirens were sounded and no warning was given.
    After that, the city installed a bunch more sirens and put them in odd locations. I am sure the locations were based on coverage, but little thought was put into asthetics; they look way out of place.

    But everyone was so jumpy after the tornado, no one complained. Now they sound the sirens everytime the wind blows (talk about crying wolf) If your community has an emergency, and the sirens save lives, they will be glad it was right next to their house.

    I wondered why they didn't put them on the water towers, on top of schools, etc., where they may have blended in with existing features better. Are there regulations preventing this?

  7. #7

    Don't know

    Here's my thing, if you work during the day, like most of the population, you will not be annoyed by the weekly/monthly tests. So you will only be annoyed when there is a REAL emergency, how inconvenient is that???
    No ordinances, but there were requirements for installation to stay at a minimum cost.
    1. within 50' of a transformer as a power supply
    2. within city right of way or on City property. (schools may be touchy about guys climbing on top of their building to check out the siren at a moment's notice)
    3. 10' horizontally away from a power line
    Who's gonna re-invent the wheel today?

  8. #8
    Member
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr
    Most of the complaints are regarding the aesthetics. The fact that they will blare 127 dB at 100' doesn't seem to phase them. Their other contention, is that the siren's proximity to their house, devalues their property.
    Perhaps you could paint them black. I worked on a job where we had to install 8' high pipes to vent gas from a closed landfill. The pipes were installed right behind the backyards in a new subdivision. No one seemed to be too worrried about the landfill, but there was no way the pipes could stay silver. Once they were painted, the issue seemed to go away.

    *spark*

  9. #9
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I live about 4 houses away from a tornado siren, and while it sucks for my dog at 10am on the first Tuesday of the month, it is of great comfort to me knowing it's there. And I don't think it's insanely out of place or lacking aesthetics. It's in a parkway on the edge of a large publicly-owned open parcel in my subdivision.

    One thing that does get me though is that my subdivision borders a subdivision in a neighboring town with a tornado siren in faint hearing distance. And that city spans two counties whereas mine does not. Thus, when a tornado goes off for the other county, we hear it as well.

    Anybody have any issues with hearing multiple tornado sirens or two sirens from neighboring towns being right on top of each other??
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SW MI Planner
    What are your sirens for? Do they go off every time the fire depts get a call? If so, I think I agree with the neighbors - I wouldn't want to here it multiple times a day either.

    ((It's bad enough that I have to hear my husbands pager and the scanner 24/7))

    We have tornado sirens here, that they test once per month (the first Saturday at noon). I haven't heard any complaints about them.
    Yeah, agreed - if they are just for emerg. calls then aren't they a bit... redundant? You guys DO have sirens on your emergency vehicles, right?

  11. #11
    Cyburbian SideshowBob's avatar
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    Funding

    How have people funded these sirens? Our Fire Chief came in and wants us to put a warning siren charge in the Subdivision Code. This is a problem for about a million reasons:
    1. Some subdivisions are placed in the core, which has total coverage.
    2. This is a reaction to some of our "sprawl" subdivisions over the years. They did not have to pay. Future developers will not like the idea of paying for the existing subdivisions, which did not have to.
    3. The difficulty in determining how much to charge--per lot? per subdivision? Finding a nexus (like with park dedication) seems tricky.

    After about a week, the chief is suprised not to see it on the Planning Commission agenda.

    Anyone charge developers for these sirens?
    Fighting congestion by widening roads is like fighting obesity by buying larger clothes.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    I have been threatened with attorneys, and residents have threatened to leave if we don't relocate these poles.
    Would it be prohibitively expensive to relocate the sirens? In areas near me, many sirens are located on top of buildings, near trees in parks, and at electrical substations and other already unattractive locations. I think you could find some places where it would fit better.

    Quote Originally posted by abrowne View post
    Yeah, agreed - if they are just for emerg. calls then aren't they a bit... redundant? You guys DO have sirens on your emergency vehicles, right?
    In days of yore, small towns would sound a siren to beckon the volunteer firefighters to the station. Some small towns still use a loud siren as a way to nofiy firefighters to report, while others do it out of tradition/habit/nostalgia/etc. I've even seem some people defend it for safety reasons, saying it is important to give people a warning that firefighters will soon be racing about.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    Sirens are a big issue right now in our county, after 2 series of tornadoes since Christmas that killed 3 dozen and destroyed dozens of homes in counties west and north of us. One of the cities in our county has already decided to purchase them. Our county commission has had tests from 2 manufacturers this month. We went outside of our building on the test days and could barely hear the sirens from just over a mile away. You'd never hear them inside. I have not heard of any inquiries from residents about proximity, tests, aesthetics, etc. but since this county is generally affluent it would probably become a huge issue if they were installed.

    I think our commission is actually leaning towards encouraging people to acquire weather radios, and/or providing them to low-income households. I have had a weather radio for 9 years, since tornadoes killed 42 people in central FL, but a friend who got one at the same time quit using it because of the tests on Wednesdays. Dumb.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ssnyderjr View post
    Like many communities, we received a grant for installation of "emergency sirens". I was defaulted as the engineer who had all the maps, therefore could easily draw circles (representing range of sound) on the map to best cover the residents of the City. There was NO consideration for proximity to houses, and no public input, as we felt that no one would want them, and the locations were not up for debate. They all ended up in public right of way, or city owned property. The one nearest the downtown (most dense residential), has drawn the most flack I have spent about 2 hours this week on the phone with irate neighbors to these sirens. etc. Most of the complaints are regarding the aesthetics. The fact that they will blare 127 dB at 100' doesn't seem to phase them. Their other contention, is that the siren's proximity to their house, devalues their property. So they are basically saying, "yes this is a good thing, but not put near my house", or "devalue my neighbor's property". I'm sure if we asked, no one would want one nearby. I have been threatened with attorneys, and residents have threatened to leave if we don't relocate these poles. Has anyone else dealt with this horse-crap?
    Screw 'em. They're idiots! Let 'em sue ya, because they will lose. Good riddance to those who leave. The quality of the gene pool in your city will increase. This is the kind of stupidity that just aggravates the hell out of me.

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