Moorefield Twp. will have more tornado sirens than any other community in Clark County after purchasing six for about $154,000.
In 2011, just three warning sirens covered all of Clark County, with two in German Twp. and one in New Carlisle. Since then several more have been installed — German Twp. and New Carlisle each added another one, Mad River and Enon share four, and South Charleston and Madison Twp. share one.
With Moorefield Twp.’s sirens, the total in Clark County will reach 16.
“We feel every single person in Moorefield Twp. is important. With this, every person in our community will be covered,” said Jack McKee, president of the Moorefield Twp. trustee board.
The Moorefield Twp. sirens will be purchased using money from its general fund and a federal grant. Officials said they put money aside to buy the warning signals because tornadoes touched down in the area in 2007 and 2011.
Clark County Emergency Management Agency Director Lisa D’Allessandris said the number of warning sirens in Clark County has increased as a result of federal grant money through the EMA that reimburses local governments for half the costs.
Some communities have chosen not to have sirens, saying that other warning systems are as reliable and are more cost effective.
The city of Springfield had non-functioning sirens about 25 years ago.
Springfield City Manager Jim Bodenmiller said he looked into whether the sirens could be repaired about 15 years ago, but they weren’t salvageable.
He said based on his research at that time, if the city had replaced the sirens, it likely would have needed to purchase 12 to 15 at a cost of about $20,000 each. That would have meant a price tag of up to $300,000.
The costs have increased since then, Bodenmiller said, and the city doesn’t have the money to pay for additional services due to state funding cuts and tight budgets that have lead to staff reductions.
“For us it’s always been an issue of cost, but there are other tools that are as reliable or more reliable,” he said.
Bodenmiller said NOAA weather radios, as well as monitoring news weather coverage are effective ways to stay abreast of hazardous conditions. Weather radios are connected to the National Weather Service and have an audible alarm that can be heard anywhere at any time.
Tornado sirens are meant mostly for those outdoors, Bodenmiller said, and are subject to human error.
“My concern has long been that they are subject to malfunction, to human error, and are less effective in urban areas and are hard to hear indoors and at night,” Bodenmiller said.
Tornado sirens are just one tool to alert the public, D’Allessandris said.
Residents can register landlines and cell phone numbers to the emergency notification system Hyper-Reach by visiting the Clark County EMA site at clarkcountyohio.gov, she said.
“I believe sirens are an effective means to communicate an outdoor warning to the public … They’re effective, but they’re not necessarily going to be heard in homes, so it’s important to have all of the tools,” D’Allessandris said.
Major weather events have also played a role in increased interest in adding tornado sirens, she said.
“Our weather patterns have changed over the last few years and we’re seeing more intense weather,” D’Allessandris said.
An F-zero tornado touched down in New Carlisle in April 2011. It uprooted trees, tore off siding and roofs and knocked out power to more than 2,500 customers for hours.
New Carlisle installed its second siren in 2013. It uses them only for tornado warnings.
New Carlisle Service Director Howard Kitko said the sirens can be heard by some outside the city limits and are effective for those who are outdoors.
It paid about $9,000 for each siren, due to the EMA grant, New Carlisle City Manager Kim Jones said.
New Carlisle added the second siren because people on the west side of town had trouble hearing the other siren, she said.
“We just see them as one of the tools to protect yourself,” Jones said. “It’s not the purpose for these to be heard indoors because you have your TV, but the sirens can help people who are outside. It’s just good to give people an early alert, but they should not depend on (sirens) as the only source.”
Harmony Twp. trustees have talked with the local EMA about purchasing tornado sirens in the past, but Trustee President Jay W. Flax said the township cannot afford them.
The township is a rural community with a population of about 3,500, Flax said, and he questioned how many sirens it would need to cover 50-square miles.
“The cost would be astronomical,” he said.
Flax surmised that it would likely be more expensive for Harmony Twp. to install sirens that would cover the entire community than it would be for Bethel, German or Moorefield townships.
“With us being so rural and spread out, it would be expensive and difficult to do,” Flax said.
Moorefield Twp. trustees believe the sirens are necessary for their community, McKee said.
He said the first plan is to use them for tornadoes, but they plan to discuss other potential uses, such as in the event of a disaster, with D’Allessandris.
“In the last seven years we’ve had two tornadoes in Moorefield Twp. touchdown. It’s been a long term plan,” McKee said. “We’re elated over this because nothing is greater than protecting human life … and with the weather patterns changing the way they are, we felt this was necessary for our area.”
Clark County has a total of 16 tornado sirens
6 in Moorefield Twp
2 in New Carlisle
3 in German
4 in Mad River and Enon (shared)
1 in South Charleston and Madison Twp. (shared)
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