Brantley receives tornado siren

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 14, 2017

Sirens have been a topic of debate in Crenshaw County since the April tornado with macrobursts. The town of Brantley has now secured the above siren from the county commission. Journal Photo/Grace Grosenbach

By: Scott McLendon

While residents of Crenshaw County are coming to terms with the removal of the weather sirens and the implementation of Code Red, Brantley has decided to retain itssiren and have one donated from the county.

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“We got the siren that’s at the school donated,” said Brantley Mayor Bernie Sullivan. “We told them we wanted it and that we’d pay whatever was needed for that, but we also have one that we had before that was on a corner building that’s been torn down.”

The siren that Brantley already had in its possession is located at the town hall. It has to be disabled manually, while the new one acquired from the county is digital.

“Any time there was bad weather, the police would go out there and pull that siren and blow it for the town of Brantley,” Sullivan said. “Someone had to actually manually do it. Right now, it’s still that way on one. The other isn’t connected. The person that sets up all the sirens is in Opp and he’s the one that’s working on fixing our new one so that when Code Red comes, that siren can go off.”

Sullivan agrees that CodeRed is a good alert system, but he also wants to make sure the residents without access to phones can be alerted.

“My problem was this; certainly Code Red is excellent and Crenshaw County does an excellent job with it, but what if you didn’t have a cell phone? What if the electricity to the landlines went off?” Sullivan said. “Our school here is K-12 and lord knows that just a siren would make them get in the hall; they know exactly what to do. That’s the reason I really pushed to get it. The county commission allowed us to have that under the auspices that we hook it up and run it. I don’t think the cost will be that big of a deal since we’ve been doing this already.”

EMA director Elliot Jones spent more than a year researching warning systems to replace the sirens. According to Jones, CodeRed can reach far more citizens than its preceding peril announcing program.

“Once I had meetings with them and after seven months of back and forth, we decided to move forward with it,” Jones said. “We would have three or four sirens go down a week from lightning strikes and other electrical errors. A lot of the time the city didn’t know about these.”

These sirens were only used for tornado warnings. The Code Red system offers warnings for various hazards.

“With Code Red, I can give out watches, warnings or general information,” Jones said. “One of the greatest testaments to Code Red came just after we got this system. A girl had run away from home and the sheriff’s department had been looking for her for four hours with no leads. After sending her description through Code Red we got a call within a minute with someone calling saying where they took the girl and the police went and picked her up. You can’t do that with a siren.”

The Code Red system alerts those registered through texts, phone calls and emails. The EMA director has been faced with some opposition to this change; the primary complaints being about poor cell phone coverage.

“The sirens were strategically placed and we probably covered about 3,000 to 4,000 people,” said Jones. “That was if they were in a position to hear it. A weather siren is an outdoor alarm system and they weren’t made for people inside their homes who have their televisions on or if it’s raining really hard you may not hear the thing. It can’t tell you anything except that you’re in a tornado warning.”

Jones says that the commission was in a position to give Brantley their sirens, while the rest are being sold. Since the April 3 tornado with macrobursts, CodeRed has seen an increased enrollment throughout the county.

“Brantley wanted the siren they had so we donated it to them,” Jones said. “We have 9,000 contacts sign up for CodeRed as of last week, so it’s doing well. That’s more than double what the sirens covered.”