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Remote operation of weather sirens now possible

SIREN MONITORING – Barbara King, 911 dispatcher, monitors the county’s emergency sirens from the emergency operations center in Hazlehurst with the new system.

With the new CentrAlert EOS, the Copiah County Emergency Management Agency can update and monitor sirens in county from the EOC in Hazlehurst.

“The new system talks to the siren, and the siren will talk back to it,” explained Randle Drane, EMA director. “It will tell us if the siren has a bad battery, if the board is going wrong. It does silent tests on sirens, and gives the EOC the capability of setting off sirens.”

The sirens under the new system include those at Co-Lin, Wesson, Georgetown, and one in the process of being installed at Copiah Academy in Gallman, which should be in operation within the next month.

The sirens in Crystal Springs and Hazlehurst belong to cities and aren’t included in the county monitoring system.

“Hazlehurst doesn’t have updated sirens yet, so it’s not cost-beneficial for them to upgrade their existing sirens to work with this system,” said Drane, but he hopes within the next year to find grant money for new sirens for Hazlehurst.

Grant funds bought the equipment and upgraded sirens for Co-Lin, Wesson, and Georgetown, costing about $16,000 for everything, according to Drane.

The monitoring system is radio-controlled, allowing the central office to “talk” to the sirens using radio waves.

The emergency sirens can reach about an 8 mile radius. They provide early warning for emergency situations – severe weather, evacuations, other emergencies, train derailment, chemical spills, etc. And the new sirens don’t just blast out a tone like the old ones. Emergency officials can speak over the sirens, giving voice commands or instructions or info about what’s going on.

“We can set them off from the EOC so emergency personnel can respond to the call without stopping to set off their sirens,” Drane explained.

Eventually the siren system can be upgraded to call people’s telephone and give them a weather message or other emergency instructions. “When we get that capability, it will be publicized and people can sign up if they want to be notified,” said Drane.

But the next step will be seeking grant funds for alert radios that will be put in schools, hospital, day care, county facilities, and industries.

These upgrades to the siren system will also help Copiah County keep its Storm-Ready County designation, which was awarded by the National Weather Service.

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