Warning sirens get new name

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioners on Tuesday heard from Emergency Management Coordinator Abigail Nesbit, who presented a proposal to change wording regarding the county’s warning sirens.

Previously known as tornado sirens, they will now be referred to as outdoor warning sirens.

The board approved the motion.

Nesbit explained the need for the change, and how it affects safety in area communities.

“Basically, we’re learning from the Granada storm and the tornadoes that happened with that,” she said. “During the storm in Granada, it wasn’t declared a tornado, so the tornado sirens were not set off. The next day, the National Weather Service determined it was a tornado.

“What I’m looking for is a change of language. I’m looking to change them to ‘outdoor warning sirens’ so that during a tornado warning and a windstorm of 70 mph or more we can set off a siren. I believe that siren should have been set off for the storm, and I’ve had a few law enforcement people who have come to me and asked me to help change this language.”

Nesbit said she already had spoken to communications dispatch director and Sheriff Jeff Markquart, who agreed with the change.

“I also spoke with the National Weather Service representative and he said that they do alert dispatch to 70 mph storms, but it’s up to us if we want to activate sirens,” Nesbit said. “So with this language change, both tornado warnings and 70 mph or more windstorms will activate the sirens.”

She also noted that, in some instances, the National Weather Service may not be quick enough to identify a tornado, but noted that local law enforcement or trained weather spotters can call in to dispatch to set off a siren.

Markquart said that while the Sheriff’s Office is responsible to send out the signal to set off the sirens, it is not its responsibility that towns and communities receive it.

“So if the cities or towns don’t have the equipment to receive it, that’s on them,” he said. “So we’re responsible to send that signal off, but we do have some communities that do not have that capability. So when we send that signal out a page goes out at the same time, then someone goes down to their siren and sets if off manually. Not all cities in the county are set off at the Sheriff’s Office.”

Commissioner Tom Mahoney asked how many towns do not have the ability to receive the signal and must set off their sirens manually.

“There’s two,” Markquart replied. “They had opportunities to update that when everyone went to narrow-band sirens, and some chose not to.”

In other action, the board:

o Authorized the purchase of a security system for the Martin County Veterans Services Office.

o Approved the purchase of a 2019 four-door pickup truck from Fairmont Ford for $33,700.