Emergency management officials push for tornado siren upgrades in Hancock Co.

HANCOCK COUNTY, Ind. -- With spring-like weather on the way, one county is taking a closer look into the accuracy of an important weather alert tool.

Hancock County Emergency Management officials say they need nearly $500,000 for new tornado sirens and to replace old ones with more technological advanced systems.

Emergency Management Director, Misty Moore, said a study done over the course of one year found many problems with current tornado sirens and the need for more.

"We found that we were only covering about 50 percent of our population," Moore said.

Moore said the study showed the county would need about 20 more sirens to cover almost all residents. The price tag is about $22,000 per siren. Each siren would include technology that would allow 911 operators to see, in real time, if the sirens are working properly.

"The software would allow us, from the 911 center, which is actually where we activate the sirens from, it would allow us to stand there and see on the computer screen, which sirens are going off, once we activate them, and which ones aren't," Moore explained.

The study also showed there are about six sirens that are outdated and don't work at all. Moore said residents contacted them after finding out sirens nearby didn't go off during emergencies or testing. Moore said they would likely replace some of the older sirens with the new ones, so that the new technology can be added.

While some studies have shown that tornado sirens aren't the most effective way to alert people of severe weather, Moore said any extra layer of fool-proof protection for people in Hancock County during dangerous and severe weather is worth it.

"We want to make sure that everyone is hearing it. We have cell phones. We have radios, but do we always have them on us?" Moore asked. "The sirens mean it’s actually here. It’s not on its way. It’s not a watch. It means that they’re actually in our backyard."

Moore said she will bring the proposal back to county council next month where she will propose a 3-year plan to replace and install new sirens. Moore said, if approved, the project would begin in 2018.