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Residents concerned about aging tornado siren

By Kristina Jackson

With dangerous storm hitting Nebraska as recently as last week, tornado safety is a major topic in one area neighborhood.

Some residents of University Park, on the north side of Tuttle Creek Lake, are worried – not only that their tornado siren is not working, but also that the Riley County commission does not plan to replace it.

The old siren is tested monthly and is currently operational, according to Riley County Emergency Management, and with the tornado season nearing its end the commission made the choice to wait until January to purchase a new one.

Although the commission is not replacing the siren immediately, the neighborhood should have a new siren by the time tornado season rolls around in the spring.

“It’s operating but we’re looking to replace it with something that won’t fail us,” said commissioner Bob Boyd.

The current siren is almost 15 years old and has malfunctioned in the past. Emergency Management repaired the siren and informed the county commission that it is operating sufficiently and should serve the neighborhood for the rest of this year.

It has, however, become unreliable, so the commission has budgeted $19,000 to replace it.

Commissioners are aware of the dangers of an area being without siren service.

“It’s a benefit for people who are outdoors and not sitting next to their phones,” said commissioner Ron Wells.

At the same time, the commission wanted to leave themselves some room for emergency expenditures that may arise.

“We don’t know what will impact our budget between now and the end of the year,” Wells said.

The siren will be replaced immediately if it does completely fail. Commissioners said they would have been more likely to approve an immediate replacement if the siren had not been functioning.

In the meantime, residents who are worried about the reliability of the siren and have regular access to phone, e-mail or text messaging can sign up for IRIS Emergency Notifications.

The system will send alerts via a voicemail, text message or e-mail in the case of an emergency.

The commission said that while this might be the future, it would not reach enough people to eliminate sirens.

“The siren system is a vital portion of alert notification,” Boyd said.

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