Weather warning sirens discussed, but Streetsboro officials say other options benefit more

by mike lesko | Reporter Published:

Streetsboro -- In light of recent tornados in the area, members of City Council debated the need for weather warning sirens in town, deciding there are more modern methods to alert people of impending storms, city officials stated.

The topic was brought up at the June 9 City Council meeting by Council member John Ruediger, who said he was concerned about recent tornado warnings in the area. During the meeting, Council took no action.

"This is something I wanted to know if Council was willing to pursue, or if [Council members] wanted to get estimates to see what our investment would be," Ruediger said.

Fire Chief Robert Reinholz said sirens are not the best way to reach people. He said there was a study done in Streetsboro about the sirens and their coverage about four or five years ago.

"According to the study, you needed nine sirens to cover the whole [area], and the cost back then was about $160,000," he said. "What the National Weather Service advises is, this is for people who are outside only. If you're inside, if there's air conditioning and noise, you're not going to hear it."

Fire Lt. Kevin Grimm said the city does not have any outdoor warning sirens.

"The only siren that was in town was located on top of the old fire station and was used to alert volunteers many years ago," Grimm said. "That siren was out of service for a few years before being taken down when the fire station was moved to its present location."

City officials said a good way to stay abreast of weather warnings is through Nixle alerts on computers or mobile devices, while local TV and radio station updates are other methods.

"When storms are going through the area, people are complaining that [local TV stations had coverage] on for hours, and [regular] programs were off the air," Reinholz said. "But for those people [who are affected by the storms going through], it's very important."

Mayor Glenn Broska said warning sirens are "1990s technology."

"We have moved so far ahead of that where we have instantaneous access to radar," he said. "Many people either receive updates on TV or via their smart phones. On a smart phone, you can actually zoom in on the radar to your specific area."

Broska said the city issues periodic reminders for residents to sign up to get Nixle weather alerts.

Fire Lt. Kevin Grimm said residents can text 44241 to 888777 or visit the website for more information at: http://www.nixle.com/.

"Granted, there are people without cell phones," Broska said. "But there's no way we can get 100 percent [compliance on anything]."

Council President Julie Field told Ruediger she appreciated his "earnestness," but she said she didn't think pursuing sirens would be as effective as Nixle updates, adding, "Cost-wise, I don't think it would be prudent, either. With the way the weather channels are [on TV], you know about a storm even before it's coming."

Broska, who previously was a Twinsburg fire captain, cited an example of a "failure" with the siren warning system when he worked in another community.

"We had the sirens, and they blew them off because there was a tornado warning for Summit County," he said. "We had people going to their basements, but the warning only existed for people in Green and Jackson. It was 25 miles away. There was no reason to incite that type of fear."

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

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