City takes big leap ahead with new siren plans

Published 8:00 pm Sunday, June 24, 2012

Better late than never, but the sooner the better.

     That could describe the state of progress on weather sirens for the city of Brookhaven.

     Aldermen learned last week that the city has been approved for a grant to help purchase five weather sirens for the area. The Federal and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency grant will pick up about $111,000 of the estimated $117,600 cost, with the city covering the remainder.

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     Progress on weather sirens for the city has been a long time coming.

     Records indicate the first proposal for citywide siren coverage was made in the mid 1980s. Now, more than 25 years later, the safety warnings provided by sirens should soon be heard across the city.

     It’s not that the siren issue has never been brought up since the first proposal. It’s just that discussions were never followed through to a needed conclusion.

     Typically, a weather event would happen, and officials would discuss the need for sirens and weather warnings at a subsequent gathering. Research on siren costs and coverage needs would be done and presented later, only to find leaders hesitant to approve any expenditures.

     While Brookhaven officials are moving forward with siren plans, Lincoln County officials remain hesitant to OK even one siren.

     Supervisors on Monday delayed action on a proposal to share with the city in the purchase of a weather siren for the Linbrook Business Park area. The estimated $15,000 siren would cover a small portion of the city untouched by the overall siren plan and provide needed coverage to the business park and surrounding area.

     Understandably, supervisors are concerned about tight finances in a difficult economy.

     Furthermore, weather sirens are not the be-all and end-all of weather protection systems. Text message alerts, such as one being implemented shortly for cellular telephone users, and weather radios should also be part of the solution and deserve consideration.

     Still, with this area currently lacking any weather warning systems, a single siren purchase for the county is a step in the right direction. And the city’s plan to install five represents a giant leap forward.

     Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey is hopeful the bid process for the city’s sirens can be completed by late July or early August. The sirens could then by installed by November in time for tornado season.

     Galey admits that’s an optimistic timetable. But with hurricane season already under way and tornado season on the horizon, and the threat of dangerous weather seemingly ever-present, the clear answer for installation of weather sirens is the sooner, the better.