The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, August 13, 2019 1:00 am

County seeks input on outdoor sirens

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

With personal devices, such as smartphones, making it easier for people to receive severe weather alerts, Allen County officials want to know how much residents value the aging outdoor warning siren system.

The Purdue University Fort Wayne Community Research Institute and the Allen County Emergency Management Advisory Council are seeking feedback via a survey at or through Sept. 15, according to a news release.

“This survey will take most people less than five minutes to complete, but the responses will be incredibly important to guide how city and county officials move forward with this system,” said Rachel Blakeman, Community Research Institute director.

The survey includes a weather siren map and about 10 questions that address such topics as how residents get information about severe weather, the value of cellphone alerts and the perceived need for siren upgrades.

“There is inconsistent siren coverage in Allen County, so we are asking for respondents' ZIP codes to see if there are any trends in how people use sirens depending on location,” Blakeman said in a statement.

The county's network of outdoor emergency warning sirens is old and needs upgrades if it will continue to be a central part of the severe weather alert process. The updates – which address mandates by the Federal Communications Commission and the system's efficiency and reliability – would require significant investment of taxpayer money, the release said.

Bernie Beier, director of Homeland Security for Allen County, believes surveying taxpayers is the fiscally responsible approach.

“It seems reasonable to engage our community upfront and let you tell us how important they are to you before we recommend spending of your money on this program,” he said in a statement.

Although originally designed as a civil defense warning system, the sirens evolved to warn residents of severe weather, including tornadoes, according to the release.

“Today, with other technologies available to residents such as smartphones, mobile devices, weather radios, radio and television stations,” the release said, “people have numerous sources of information for severe weather available, often with better and more accurate information than just the sound of an outdoor warning siren can provide.”

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