Linwood officials are trying to resolve complaints about the city’s use of emergency sirens, which have been in place since the 1950s.
About 120 residents signed a petition last month asking officials to consider silencing the siren system, which was installed when air raids and nuclear strikes were considered immediate threats to the public, Councilman Darren Matik said.
The newest council member wants to use more up-to-date technology. But, he said, he wants to keep the siren system in case all other forms of communication are cut off — or the city faces an extreme threat, such as terrorism.
“The question is: In this day and age, why do we need a siren?” Matik asked, citing neighboring municipalities that use email, phone and text alerts.
The city has only one working siren, and it isn’t used at night between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., regardless of the emergency, Fire Chief Chick Kisby said. It is, however, tested twice weekly at 12 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Testing is necessary to keep the sirens in working condition, Kisby said. If left unused for a long period of time, they can get stuck. Kisby said a plan to keep the siren — but not test it — does not make sense. The siren will fail, he said. The cost to replace the system is about $15,000 to $20,000, he said.
The department already uses pagers and text alerts to contact firefighters, but those methods have flaws, too, he said.
“We were told specifically not to do away with our other signaling systems because technology is not reliable,” Kisby said.
In addition, fewer volunteers respond if a siren is not used, especially in the summer, he said. Firefighters might, for example, be out mowing their lawns. In that case, they are more likely to hear a siren than a pager, Kisby said.
Aside from testing, sirens are used in only to signal a structure fire or an accident in which an individual is trapped inside a vehicle, Matik said. Structure fires occur about once a year, he said. The accidents occur more often, he said.
The siren used to be tested once a day and that has been “seriously curtailed,” Matik said. The councilman is set to sit down with the fire department this month to discuss options for the emergency alert system.
He said he believes most of the complaints have been coming from new residents. And, he said, he bet petitioners would feel differently if their house were on fire.
“They would want every siren in the city to be used,” he said.
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