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Twp. considers area emergency sirens

January 22, 2014 - Atlas Twp.-Springtime storms are a few months away, but township officials are already taking a look at outdoor warning services.

Currently, the township has only one warning siren located on Hegel Road west of Ridge Road.

In November, Jeffrey DuPilka, president of Allendale-based West Shore Services, reviewed the outdoor warning coverage area for the township. The company is the largest distributor of warning equipment in Michigan.

The report from West Shore designated eight priority locations for areas to be covered with warning sirens. The locations include: Ridge Road north of Lakeshore, Jordan and Irish roads, Gale Road south of Farnsworth Road, Kipp Road east of Henderson Road, Perry Road just east of Atlas Road, Hill Road east of Walker Road, McCandlish Road just east of Vassar Road and Hegel Road just west of Henderson Road.

According to the report, each installation of a new Federal Signal 2001 AC/DC with digital two-way status monitoring will cost $19,900. Each unit covers about 5,200 feet and approximately 1,250 of these units are in operation in Michigan. The units also have a battery backup, in addition to normal operations, which allow the unit to operate during a power outage. There are currently over 80 free standing sirens in Genesee County. In addition, some out-county fire departments use their fire sirens for tornado warning or 70 mph or greater winds as well as fire.

"We'll continue to take a look at grants to help fund the project to add more units to the township," said Shirley Kautman-Jones, township supervisor. "There are grants out there to help pay the costs of the sirens. We are looking to neighboring communities to see if any of the coverage areas can include the township. However, like us, Davison Township has only one (siren) like we do."

Groveland Township Supervisor Bob DePalma said the 36 square miles are covered by nine sirens.

"We have the majority of the township covered—very close to 95 percent of the area," he said. "It not cost effective to be in every area. We also have a manual override system where Fire Chief Steve McGee can set off the siren if the need arises.

DePalma said the sirens are needed given the vast acreage of outdoor recreation property.

"We have state property and county parks in the township where many will be outside where they need to hear the siren."

Brandon Fire Chief David Kwapis said the township is well covered with 12 tornado serins plus both fire stations.

"The sirens are extremely important," said Kwapis. "If you're outside of the house in Brandon Township you're going to hear it. Oakland County has been aggressive in establishing 270 sirens. We are going to add our 13th (siren) soon near Sands Road and State Park Road due to the public state land. We have added the sirens using cost sharing through local, county and federal agencies. Many in the county are located in heavily populated areas—but they are key in the safety of the community.

Kwapis said that some communities are using cell phone technology and even Twitter to communicate severe weather.

"We've had suggestions to use other forms of communication for emergency information," he added. "But the technology is moving so fast people just can't keep up. Especially senior citizens—that section of the population needs to know it the most."

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