Glitches keep some storm warning sirens silent
by Brian Anderson
Jun 03, 2013 | 3863 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Calhoun County EMA worker stands beside an emergency warning siren in Jacksonville. (File photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
A Calhoun County EMA worker stands beside an emergency warning siren in Jacksonville. (File photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Outdoor emergency weather sirens in Calhoun and Talladega counties are still facing some problems, according to Emergency Management Agency officials.

Although a glitch that prevented the siren systems in each county from operating simultaneously was taken care of several months ago, officials said Monday only 90 to 95 percent of the nearly 200 sirens in both counties are functioning properly at any given time.

Jonathan Gaddy, the director of Calhoun County EMA, said the sirens are malfunctioning at random, and engineers have been unable to pinpoint the cause of the problem.

“It’s not the same sirens that aren’t working,” Gaddy said. “Right now, we’re not sure what is causing the random outages.”

Despite the glitch, Gaddy said, the failures aren’t as alarming as when the counties’ sirens could not operate at the same time earlier this year. Calhoun County is served by 108 overlapping weather sirens, meaning the small percentage of failure doesn’t leave large areas of the county uncovered.

“This is nothing like when the two systems had a complete failure,” Gaddy said. “We’re continuing to work on the problem, but it’s not a critical failure.”

What exactly is causing the issue still remains a mystery, however, and the Alabama Regional Communication System, which operates the 800 megahertz radio system linking the sirens in the two counties, will meet Wednesday to discuss what to do about the problem. Deborah Gaither, Talladega County’s EMA director, said the EMA or the Communication System board of directors will likely have to consult with outside engineers to figure out the problem.

Attempts Monday to reach Kevin Jenkins, the Communication System’s administrator, were unsuccessful.

It’s possible the situation may correct itself sooner rather than later, Gaddy said. Calhoun County 911 recently took over the Alabama Regional Communication System, and is working toward a complete upgrade to the 800 MHz radio system.

“It’s a possibility that could fix it,” Gaither said. “But we don’t know, we’re just being told it’s one of several possibilities.”

Gaither said residents in the counties shouldn’t rely on just the weather sirens to alert them to potential severe weather threats, but that it is still imperative the sirens get fixed as soon as possible.

“Like we said before when the sirens weren’t working, 90 percent isn’t acceptable,” Gaither said. “We need 100 percent.”

Staff Writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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