Boone emergency office hoping to add and replace many outdoor sirens

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County Office of Emergency Management could be replacing and adding to its 72 outdoor warning sirens for many years to come if its plan gets approved.

The emergency management office is adding two new outdoor warning sirens for the first time since the department acquired the sirens from Boone municipalities in 2013.

The new sirens will be placed in North Ashland and near Battle High School. 

In 2018, the department will add two new sirens and replace two more that are beyond the 20-25 year life-span. 

Starting in 2019, the emergency management office wants to begin adding or replacing five sirens each year for seven straight years. 

"We’re looking to replace sirens and increase the capacity of sirens," said Boone County Office of Emergency Management Deputy Director Tom Hurley. "We need to increase the number of sirens that are available in the community across Boone County primarily based on population growth and development."

The sirens are designed to exclusively alert people that are outside in possible severe weather. Coverage of the siren can vary based on a number of factors including elevation and wind, but each typically alerts people within 5,000 feet in any direction.

There are a number of sirens in Boone County that are older than the recommended 25 years. However, many of those are functional, Hurley said. But, the chance they may fail is higher and they also use more energy. 

"It’s important to note that siren failure is very rare in Boone County, although it does occur," Hurley said. "Even a siren outside of its age span is still considered reliable."

The sirens are tested every day via radio by Boone County Joint Communications, and then once every month in a way the public can hear.

Hurley said, while the sirens are for people that are outside during a potential severe weather situation, the office has other options for those that are indoors, including NOAA Weather Radio and the Smart911/Rave Alert application that will send updates straight to cell phones from Boone County emergency departments. 

The emergency management office will have to make a plan for updating the sirens and submit it to the Boone County Commission for approval. Each siren site costs roughly $25,000.

If the department can't get its five sirens each year for seven years, it hopes to be able to add two sirens each year for 12 straight years, but Hurley is confident the department can achieve the former.

"It’s incumbent upon our office to deliver that plan to the county commission and then for them to approve the budget for that," Hurley said. "I’m confident they will."

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