The Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is asking the St. Clair County Board of Commissioners for approval of a project that will fix the county’s warning system.
Of the 52 warning sirens in the county, 26 were found to not be functioning or function on an intermittent basis during physical inspections in 2019, according to a Sept. 24 memo to the county board from St. Clair County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Justin Westmiller.
Of the 26 sirens, Westmiller said 10 are not functioning at all. These include:
- Berlin Township. Fire Station (local activation only)
- Brockway Township Fire Station (local activation only)
- Lapeer and Allen Roads, Kimball Township
- Kimball Township Flinchbaugh Road, Kimball Township
- Mussey Township Fire Station
- Mussey Township/Capac Village Hall
- Boardwalk Park, St. Clar (local activation only)
- Yankee Road, St. Clair Township
- Wales Township Hall
- Yale City Hall
There has been no coordinated oversight of annual preventative maintenance of the county’s entire outdoor alert and warning siren network for a decade, Westmiller said in the memo.
Westmiller said sirens are tested monthly, but municipalities are responsible for maintaining the sirens they own. Municipalities own all sirens in the county except for a county-owned siren in Goodells Park and the control point at St. Clair County Central Dispatch.
A one-time project will repair or upgrade the 26 sirens that are not functioning properly.
“We noticed an issue and we took an action to correct it,” Westmiller said.
The project will also replace and upgrade the control point at St. Clair County Central Dispatch. The new control point will provide more capabilities than the current one and be more user-friendly for dispatchers. The current control point is no longer manufacturer supported.
The project will also consolidate the county siren’s three operating systems into one, Westmiller said, improving reliability and functionality for all 52 sirens.
The county is coordinating the project because the county’s office of homeland security is responsible for operating the network that activates the sirens when there is an emergency. Municipalities are responsible for physically maintaining their sirens.
The project is funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Homeland Security Grant Program, which funds a portion of the county’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
West Shore Services, Inc., submitted a bid for $78,882 for the siren upgrade project on Sept. 22. Westmiller said he expects the contract to be approved at the next St. Clair County Judiciary/Public Safety meeting on Thursday.
Westmiller said once the contract is approved, he expects repairs and installations to take between six and nine months.
Once the project is completed, the office of homeland security will coordinate an annual preventative maintenance program to ensure the annual inspection of each siren.
Westmiller said the county will coordinate one vendor to complete the maintenance each year, however, each municipality will pay for the annual inspection and maintenance of their own sirens.
The West Shore Services contract includes an option for $18,700 for annual maintenance. Westmiller said once the repair project is completed, the county will meet with municipalities and determine the best path forward.
If the county coordinates the project, municipalities will benefit from the economy of scale and receive maintenance at a cheaper rate than if each municipality negotiated the contract themselves, Westmiller said.
The outdoor warning system alerts people there is an emergency, especially for areas where devices are not available, such as in areas without cell phone service, Westmiller said. The sirens tell people to seek a safe place or turn to other devices, such as phones, televisions, or radios, for more information.
“That’s the first key for people to understand that there is an emergency going on and they need to take some sort of action,” Westmiller said.
Sirens can be used for tornadoes, significant and dangerous storms, chemical spills, or other emergencies.
Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LM_Fitz.
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