A plan is underway that will continue to replace tornado sirens in the City of Washington Court House over time.
The sirens are being replaced rather than fixed, due to parts not being available any longer. According to Washington Fire Department (WFD) Fire Chief Tim Downing, the cost per siren is approximately $16,000 with installation being approximately $5-$6,000.
There are currently three sirens in operation within the city: one in downtown Washington C.H., one on West Elm Street and one on Mulberry Street.
Of those operating sirens, West Elm was replaced last year, while the Mulberry Street siren was replaced earlier this year.
The following siren locations are currently not in operation: one located near Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH), one located at the Fayette County Fairgrounds, and one located near Chappell Door Company on US 22.
The current plan is to replace the FCMH siren later this year, although the initial plan had been to replace only one siren per year in order to properly finance them.
Two sirens will be replaced this year as the budget has allowed for it. The funding for the sirens comes out of the WFD’s capital improvements, according to Downing.
“We, as a department, were able to save a little bit of money on some other items when rules changed on their replacement, so that we could certify certain items that we use for firefighting as opposed to having to replace them. So that saved us a lot of funds,” said Downing.
The items he referred to were other items with expenses that would have needed to come out of the Capital Improvement budget, meaning the funds were able to be reallocated to the sirens.
Unless the finances allow for them to be replaced sooner, the siren at the fairgrounds is planned to be replaced next year and the Chappell Door siren the following year.
The first siren that was replaced (on West Elm Street), according to Downing, is what is referred to as a “hamburger stack.”
“We were rushing to get something up to protect the citizens, so that one [on West Elm] went up,” said Downing. “In the meantime we kept getting together with other organizations and individuals to gather as much information as we could. We found something called a sentry siren, which is an electrical, mechanical siren. Basically it’s a motor — a big fan that makes a lot of noise. The big fan blows the air through the horn, horn makes a lot of noise. Nothing fancy to go wrong with it.”
The other new sirens are or will be sentry sirens. The sirens were designed and have been/will continue to be installed by a local electrical engineer, Jeff Skaggs.
All the sirens can be activated by radio. The main difference between the two types, according to Downing, is the sentry sirens can be manually turned on with a key in case radios go down, while the “hamburger stack” on West Elm Street can not be turned on manually.
Downing explained it is important for citizens to use the Nixle service, especially citizens within that area in case radios do go down. Another reason to use Nixle is for information when inside, as tornado sirens are meant to be heard by people who are outside — this has the purpose of letting people who are outside know that they should take cover immediately.
Nixle is an emergency alert system. For more information or to sign up please visit www.local.nixle.com/city/oh/washington-court-house/.
Reach Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355 or on Twitter @JennMWoods.