Sunday, April 11, 1999

Sirens not designed to penetrate buildings


Expert advises people to buy weather radios

BY DAN KLEPAL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The phone started ringing right after the shock wore off.

INFOGRAPHIC
Area siren map
        Jim Hughes, chief of the Miami Township Fire Department in Hamilton County, said he and his wife answered more than 50 calls Friday from people concerned about the area's civil defense sirens not working before Friday's killer tornado.

        Mr. Hughes said at least two of the township's four sirens did not sound in the early morning hours as the twister swept through the area.

        “It's a tough situation, especially with late-night storms,” said Mr. Hughes.

        “There's no absolute way to alert everyone, unless we go door-to-door, and there's just not enough time for that.”

        Sirens warn people of an approaching storm, so they can seek shelter. The sirens were not designed to penetrate buildings or wake people from sleep.

        Weather radios, which cost about $35, are the preferred method to warn people of inclement weather, said Don Maccarone, director of the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency.

        The loudness of each siren varies, depending on its age, the topography of the land and weather conditions. Generally, each siren has a range of one mile.

        Tristate sirens began being installed during the 1950s. Sirens have been replaced periodically over the years, and several new ones were installed after the killer tornado in 1974 that swept through Sayler Park and Xenia in Greene County.

        Each municipality pays for and decides where to place their sirens.

        Some regions are going to new technology.

        In Indiana, for example, a bill that would allow communities to use 911 funding to pay for an early-warning telephone system is on the verge of approval in the Senate, according to State Rep. Cleo Duncan, R-Greens burg, who sponsored it.

        The system will act like a reverse 911 system, where the communications system will call individual homes and play a recorded warning to residents when they answer.

        Surveying the damage Saturday across Ripley County, which she represents, Ms. Duncan said she regretted that the system was not already in place.

        In Dearborn and Ripley counties, three houses, four mobile homes, 12 barns and several buildings were destroyed during Friday's storm. Often, that part of southeastern Indiana is the first when severe weather rumbles into the Tristate.

        “We're actually the warning post for Cincinnati,” said farmer and trained tornado spotter Jim Benham, whose barns and home were severely damaged Friday morning.

        Mr. Maccarone said new technology isn't really the issue.

        “There is no one perfect system,” Mr. Maccarone said. “You have to have a combination of tools to use.

        “We've already got the technology for every home in the area to have a warning and the most up-to-date weather information (weather radios). Why talk about new technology when people aren't even using existing technology?”

        Reporter Rachel Melcer contributed to this report.

       



PICKING UP THE PIECES
Pinpointing the damage in the Tristate
Homeowners sort out emotions, scattered memories
Where to donate, where to get help
Orphaned dog has broken pelvis, heart
Devoted pair died together
'When God calls, we must go'
- Sirens not designed to penetrate buildings
Did you hear the sirens?
New home, owners spared
Utility crews, municipal workers out in force
Volunteers offer goods, hands, time
Mother Nature's worst brings out the best in human nature
Church members shed tears, give thanks
Hoosiers pitch in to help neighbors
Insurance adjusters bring checks, reassuring words
Warren County took blow, too
One year later, Alabama tornado victims still rebuilding
Coping with the storm
Coping with the storm: Returning to your home