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At Last: City’s storm siren installation under way

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORYInstallation of Brookhaven's long-awaited storm sirens is under way this week. On Monday, Jimmy Bell of Southern Electric Corp. prepares to unload a pole for an installation at Highway 51 and Denham Road.

DAILY LEADER / JUSTIN VICORY / Installation of Brookhaven’s long-awaited storm sirens is under way this week. On Monday, Jimmy Bell of Southern Electric Corp. prepares to unload a pole for an installation at Highway 51 and Denham Road.

For some time, Lincoln County has been the only county within miles that hasn’t had storm sirens to warn residents about tornadoes and other hazardous weather.

Fortunately, things will change in Brookhaven after this week, and residents of the city will have a warning system to alert them of potentially dangerous weather from now on.

“I got the call today. The storm sirens are going to be delivered later in the day,” Brookhaven-Lincoln County Civil Defense/Emergency Management Director Clifford Galey said Monday morning.

By 2 p.m. Monday, the long-awaited sirens had arrived and were sitting on a trailer at the civil defense/management building while Galey and his crew scouted the installation areas.

Also on Monday afternoon, workers were dropping off wooden mounting poles at the siren locations.

A total of five sirens will be installed within the city limits at a cost of $79,000, or $15,800 per siren – 95 percent of which will be covered by a FEMA grant. This leaves the city with roughly $4,000 in city expenses.

“We are happy to finally have the sirens in our possession. It has been a long time coming,” said Mayor Joe Cox.

Brookhaven officials first applied for the FEMA money through the Mississippi EMA in May of 2008. During the bidding process, storm siren technology was going through a change, which led Galey to request more time for research.

After two bidding sessions, the city accepted the lower of two bids on an electronic weather alert system from Precision Communications.

“First, we had to review the bidding process and determine what kind of siren would be most effective and durable for the city,” said Ward 4 Alderman Shirley Estes.

“Then we had to wait for repairs to be made on the sirens,” Estes said, referring to a delay in the originally scheduled late-August delivery of the warning system.

“The installation of the sirens should be completed by Friday. Running electricity to the sirens will then take a couple more days,” Galey said.

The sirens will be installed at the corner of Monticello and North Jackson Street (behind the Lincoln County Public Library), at the corner of Field Lark Lane and Industrial Park Road, at the end of East Washington Street, at 906 Highway 51 (near Highway 84) and at the corner of Fender Trail and Manufacturers Boulevard.

The primary purpose of the sirens will be to alert residents of tornadoes. However, Galey foresees other potential uses. “The sirens could be used to alert residents of a major transportation accident or a special emergency of similar magnitude,” Galey added.

In the event of a tornado warning, the civil defense management department will sound the sirens. If not, the sirens will be sounded by 911 dispatch, Galey said.

After installation, the department plans to test the sirens on an upcoming Saturday in order to let residents know what to expect in the case of a tornado or major event.

All sirens will run on electricity and have a battery backup in the event of a power outage. Galey said the sirens will be tested monthly.

The principal purpose of storm sirens is to alert people who are outdoors that a life-threatening situation is occurring. Depending on local policy, sirens may be sounded for a variety of life-threatening hazards, but always with the intent that people outdoors should seek shelter, according to the National Weather Service.

“It’s a great benefit to the community,” said Estes.

The part of Lincoln County outside the city does not qualify for FEMA mitigation money, since it is not part of the flood insurance program. While the matter has come up at previous board of supervisors’ meetings, Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop said it is not at the top of the agenda right now.

“We are not moving in that direction at the time,” said Bishop.

“Sirens for the county are not in the near future,” Galey confirmed.