The mystery has been solved about why the city’s storm warning system that is supposed to alert residents of approaching danger didn’t sound July 11.
According to city administrator Bill Brock during Tuesday night’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, the radio signal was interrupted because it does not have a dedicated frequency specifically for its use.
“The sirens are sent out over the fire department’s radio waves, or signals,” said Brock. “If someone happens to key a mike at the same time someone is punching in the numbers to sound the sirens, the signal can get lost. We didn’t know that happens, but it can happen. We don’t have a dedicated frequency for the sirens.”
In 2005, the city installed six storm warning sirens in order to alert residents about severe thunderstorms and tornados and for other serious instances where there is a possibility for loss of life or property. The system is designed to be heard outdoors only to alert individuals that might not be near a TV or radio.
Brock says he has been in contact with E-911 director Chuck Haston and a dedicated line was removed by the city from the project as a cost-saving measure.
“That was a cost-saving measure when the system went in,” said Brock. “I can look into what it would cost to have a radio signal, or radio frequency, set aside specifically for the sirens. That’s the only way to do it. This is the first issue we’ve had since the system went in.”
The radio spectrum is the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the United States, regulatory responsibility for the radio spectrum is divided between the Federal Communi-cations Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Admin-istration (NTIA). The FCC, which is an independent regulatory agency, administers spectrum for non-federal use such as state, local government, commercial, etc.
The severe weather earlier this month involved strong winds knocking down trees and doing damage to homes and property, but no tornados.
Brock says the situation could have been much worse if the sirens had failed to sound with tornados in the area.
“It wouldn’t have been good if a tornado had hit,” said Brock. “I guess the question now is how protective do we want to get. If you want me to look into the cost of a frequency, I will. We would have to pay an annual cost to the FCC."
Brock will contact the FCC for a cost on a dedicated frequency. A Safety Committee meeting will be called to review the information.