Thursday, March 29, 2001

Many Ohio tornado sirens vulnerable to power failure

The Associated Press

        The expense of buying battery-powered tornado sirens has left many of Ohio's most populous counties with few if any sirens that would work if a storm knocked out electricity.

        An exception is Franklin County, which on average has the most tornado sightings in Ohio. All 123 of the county's sirens are powered by batteries.

        Emergency management officials say some communities balk at replacing their sirens with battery power or models with backup generator power because of the cost. A new siren can cost more than $20,000.

        Last year, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency received $12 million in requests from communities around the state to improve warning systems, but had only $257,000 to give out. Sixteen communities received money.

        “Sirens are great ideas. A reliable siren is even a better great idea,” said agency spokesman Dick Kimmins.

        Ohio averages 16 twisters and five related deaths a year, according to records dating to the early 1900s. Tornadoes can hit any time of the year, but generally occur April through June.

        A check of emergency management agencies found that:

        • Only about 10 percent of the 185 sirens in Hamilton County are powered by batteries.

        • In Toledo's Lucas County, only six of the 119 sirens are battery powered.

        • Fifteen of the 59 communities in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, have sirens, for a total of about 50. Roughly half of those sirens have battery backups.

        • In Montgomery County, home to Dayton, and nearby Greene County, there are no siren systems with backup power, according to Ed Kovar, director of the Miami Valley Emergency Management Agency.

        Springfield, northeast of Dayton, has no sirens. The city stopped using them in the late 1950s because radio tones in Northern Kentucky were setting them off.


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