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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
P. O. Box 3711
204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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New warning sirens coming to town
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This is the model of siren Martinsville is buying to warn residents of tornadoes. Eight new sirens are being purchased.

Monday, June 16, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville residents soon will be alarmed.

Eight new outdoor warning sirens are on their way to the city. The sirens, like ones already installed at the city’s fire stations on West Church Street and Starling Avenue, will be sounded mainly for tornado warnings.

A $192,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant is covering the sirens’ cost. No city money will be spent — in-kind work that city employees are doing on the project meets requirements for a local match, according to city Emergency Management Coordinator Bobby Phillips.

The sirens are being manufactured by Sentry Siren, but they were procured from Sirens for Cities of Jonesboro, Ga., an authorized Sentry dealer.

Phillips said the sirens will be shipped to Martinsville in the next six weeks. Once they all arrive, he said, city electric department crews will install them atop utility poles at the following locations:

• Roundabout Road and Fourth Street.

• Ainsley Street, at the playground across from the Clearview Early Childhood Center.

• Fairy Street, near Martinsville High School’s back parking lot and tennis courts.

• Rives Road and Lawson Street.

• Madison and Randolph streets, near Patrick Henry Mall.

• Spruce and Brookdale streets.

• Mulberry Road and Corn Tassel Trail.

• The fire station on Starling Avenue. That siren will replace one already there which has sound distribution problems, according to Phillips.

The siren atop the fire station on West Church Street will continue to be used, Phillips said. Therefore, the system will have a total of 9 sirens.

Locations for the sirens — many of which are on hills or high peaks — were chosen so at least one of the devices can be heard from most everywhere in Martinsville, Phillips said.

Each of the 16-horsepower electromechanical sirens has a sound output of 129 decibels.

The loudness will gradually decrease the farther away that a person is from a siren.

But “if you’re outdoors, you’ll hear” a siren when the system is activated, Phillips said.

Outdoor warning sirens are designed mainly to be heard outside.

They may can be heard in a home or building, too, depending on how much noise there is indoors from devices such as televisions and appliances and how close the structure is to a siren, officials have said.

The sirens will be activated from a control panel at the West Church Street fire station.

Each siren will have a battery backup in case the system must be activated during a power failure, Phillips said.

Also, the control panel will have technology enabling the sirens to sound automatically when the National Weather Service issues tornado warnings, Phillips said, if no one is at the fire station to activate them manually.

Plans officially are to sound the sirens only for tornado warnings.

However, Phillips said the devices also may be activated if the city receives notice of other types of strong storms with damaging winds, such as the “derecho” that struck Martinsville and the region during the summer of 2012.

Yet with that type of wind storm, “a lot of times you don’t have advance warning” like often occurs with tornadoes, he said.

Some localities also use sirens to warn residents of emergencies such as spills of chemicals that could make people ill if they breathe the substances.

During the Cold War era of the late 1950s and early 1960s, many cities planned to use their sirens to warn residents if a nuclear attack occurred.

Phillips said, though, that when people hear Martinsville’s sirens, they should know to take cover immediately because an extremely dangerous storm is approaching.

“We don’t want there to be any confusion on what to do,” which is why the city will limit its use of the sirens, he said.

The city plans to test the sirens at least once a month to make sure they function properly and people are familiar with their sound. Phillips said the time and day for siren tests has not yet been determined.


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