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Sirens making comeback?

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  • Sirens making comeback?

    By TIM TALLEY
    Associated Press Writer
    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The wail of an outdoor siren put Kenneth
    Jacobs on notice that danger was approaching before tornadoes
    struck near his home in May.
    "It was loud," said Jacobs, whose home was undamaged during
    two days of twisters. "It made you more on guard for what was
    going on."
    Sirens have long been used for storm disasters, but now the
    Federal Emergency Management Agency is studying whether they can
    warn people of biological, chemical or nuclear attack.
    Cities including Oklahoma City, Chicago and Dallas have upgraded
    their outdoor warning systems with a type of siren that can carry
    voice announcements - an idea that officials say took on added
    importance in the post-Sept. 11 world.
    "You have all kinds of new systems," said Timothy Putprush, a
    telecommunications specialist with FEMA. "You originate a message.
    You need to get it out to the population."
    Thousands of sirens were built across the country during the
    Cold War to warn citizens in case of nuclear attack, but the
    federal government stopped the program and the sirens fell silent
    in many of the nation's largest cities. Other cities put them to
    use to warn of tornadoes.
    But terrorism warnings emerged as a new use for the sirens after
    Sept. 11. The federal government is currently updating the nation's
    civil preparedness guide to discuss improved ways of notifying the
    public of emergencies, and that includes the use of sirens.
    In Oklahoma City, taxpayers agreed to spend $4.5 million several
    years ago to upgrade its Cold War-era warning system with 181 new
    sirens covering a 622-square-mile area in the city.
    The sirens, together with news reports and special radios that
    emit a loud alarm in times of weather emergencies, helped prevent
    loss of life when tornadoes raked the Oklahoma City area on May 8
    and 9. More than 300 homes were destroyed but only one person was
    killed, an elderly man who fell and hit his head while taking
    shelter.
    The sirens can be particularly useful to people who are not
    listening to the radio or watching television.
    "If you've got a weather radio in your house, it doesn't do
    much for you when you're at the ballpark," said Kerry Wagnon,
    director of public safety capital projects in Oklahoma City.
    Wagnon also said the sirens could be used in the event of a
    terrorist attack like the one that killed 168 people in 1995.
    Radio and television news reports are the warning method of
    choice in many large cities, where old civil defense sirens have
    fallen into disrepair.
    "When the money dried up, the ability to maintain them, based
    on a perception of the threat, went away," said Bob Canfield,
    assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness
    Department.
    Sirens would not be of much use in Los Angeles because the
    sprawling urban area does not face the kinds of natural disasters
    for which they are most useful, he said.
    "They're no good for earthquakes, and tornadoes are not our
    thing," Canfield said.
    Jarrod Bernstein, a spokesman in New York City's Office of
    Emergency Preparedness, says battery-operated radios make more
    sense than wailing sirens in his densely populated urban area of
    more than 8 million people.
    "We just don't think it's a practical system for New York
    City," he said.
    While not dismissing sirens, officials in Washington are looking
    at other options including electronic text messaging and a reverse
    911 system that would telephone citizens in an emergency, said
    Jo'Ellen Countee of the District of Columbia Emergency Management
    Agency.
    "A lot of people want sirens - people who are old enough to
    remember sirens," Countee said.
    Electronic messages might work for people with a cell phone, but
    Putprush said visitors at the district's many monuments or on the
    National Mall would need an outdoor warning.
    "There are thousands and thousands of tourists there at any
    time of day," he said. "That would be a great application for
    it."

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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