Chesterton Tribune



County EMA director sets record straight: Sirens will be maintained

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Porter County’s Emergency Management Agency will continue to maintain the county’s approximately 56 tornado sirens even though it didn’t renew a vendor contract for siren maintenance this year.

Tuesday night Porter fire chief Lewis Craig told the Town Council that the county apparently no longer would maintain Porter’s two tornado sirens despite an existing agreement to do so at no cost to the town.

According to county EMA director Russell Shirley, that’s not the case. Volunteers now will be inspecting the sirens free of charge saving the county the base $22,000 contract price previously paid to Bartronics for inspections and maintenance.

The cost of supplies or equipment the volunteers need related to siren upkeep/repairs will be paid for by the county, said Shirley on Wednesday.

He also said the volunteers are “outstanding people, very, very skilled in electronics.”

At Tuesday’s meeting Craig told council members he had been advised by Bartronics that Porter County no longer would pay to maintain the sirens. Efforts to contact Craig yesterday were unsuccessful. Today he said, “I was told the truth, but I didn’t get the complete story. I was going by what my radio repairman said. Everything is hunky dory with EMA and Porter Fire now.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, council president Greg Stinson said the town didn’t have money for an unanticipated expense like maintaining tornado sirens.

Shirley said he spoke with Craig after the chief’s council comments to explain Porter County isn’t violating its agreement with the town, and that there will be no lapse in siren coverage or lack of maintenance.

Shirley said all sirens are in working order although some individual batteries are awaiting replacement; three deep-cycle marine back-up batteries are in place per siren in case of an electrical outage to the siren. A workday is planned next weekend for maintenance.

Porter County’s siren system currently is being evaluated by a team of Valparaiso University meteorology students to determine if additional sirens are needed, advised Shirley. “(The system’s) not a dead issue. We’re working on it all the time.”

The director said the sirens are used to warn of an approaching tornado, although some tornados can form faster than immediate notice can be given to that area, but sirens also could be used for other emergencies like a train derailment because individual sirens can be triggered depending on their location.

Craig said he regrets what happened Tuesday. Shirley said the bottom line is at no time will anybody be unprotected, and the county can realize a $22,000 savings.


Posted 2/27/2014