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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Eastman to test new siren

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

People in some western areas of Henry County should not be alarmed if they hear a loud siren Wednesday morning.

It is only a test.

Eastman Chemical Co. is installing the siren at its facilities in Whitby Acres, between Fieldale and Bassett, to warn workers of severe weather, according to company spokesman Maranda Demuth.

In September 2004, when CPFilms operated the facilities, a tornado struck Plant 1, causing an estimated $51 million in damages. Plant 2 sustained less damage.

A recent Eastman news release stated that the company’s siren will be sounded when the National Weather Service issues tornado warnings for Fieldale, Bassett, Stanleytown and Collinsville to alert workers as well as neighbors within a radius of 5-7 miles.

However, Demuth said that unlike sirens used to warn communities, like two in Martinsville, Eastman’s siren is an “industrial grade” device designed mainly to alert the plants’ workers but it will be loud enough for neighbors to hear.

Company officials will not know before Wednesday’s test, though, how loud the siren will be or how far it can be heard, Demuth said.

She did not know exactly what the siren will sound like — for instance, whether it will be an up-and-down tone or a steady blast.

Plant Manager Brian Miller could not be reached for comment.

During the test, the siren will sound intermittently for a few minutes at a time over the course of about an hour, according to Demuth.

Sirens atop Martinsville’s fire stations on West Church Street and Starling Avenue are sounded when tornado warnings for the city are issued.

Due to the population being less dense in some parts of Henry County than others, the county does not use sirens for tornado warnings, county officials have said.

Still, county Public Safety Director Rodney Howell said Eastman having a siren to warn employees and nearby residents is “a sensible thing to do.”

Martinsville officials recently found out that the state approved a grant of about $190,000 for the city to install a network of eight sirens citywide to warn all residents of tornadoes and other life-threatening emergencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency must endorse the grant before the city gets the money. Bobby Phillips, the city’s emergency management coordinator, said Monday he has had no indication when that will occur.


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