New emergency siren system installed in Okla.

The state-of-the-art system has enough sirens to cover Norman's city limits

By Jane Glenn Cannon

NORMAN, Okla. — Installment of the city's new solar-powered emergency warning system is nearing completion, and residents will begin hearing the sirens tested at noon on Saturdays, beginning this weekend.

Fire Chief James Fullingim said the audible tests are being changed from Fridays to Saturdays to be consistent with testing policies being adopted by other metro-area cities.

The sirens will not be sounded and tested during University of Oklahoma home football games or if other large outdoor events are happening on Saturdays, Fullingim said.

The new emergency warning system can be tested silently on a daily basis, the fire chief said.

Fifty-four new sirens have been installed, and by the end of next week, 60 should be in place, Fullingim said.

Altogether, 67 new sirens will be erected by the start of this year's spring storm season.

One older siren is being rebuilt, bringing the total of operational sirens to 68, Fullingim said.

The new $1.2 million emergency warning system is being paid for with general obligation bonds approved by voters last year.

The state-of-the-art system has enough sirens to cover the city limits. The system also has a voice activation component, Fullingim said.

The voice component could be used to announce a tornado warning or at Lake Thunderbird to announce high winds so boaters would know to get off the water, he said.

Fullingim said that he has been meeting with emergency management representatives from Oklahoma City, Moore, Del City, Edmond, Midwest City, Yukon, Oklahoma County and Canadian County to come up with a regional outdoor warning system policy.

Consistency in warning systems is important to avoid public confusion, he said.

The regional policy calls for sounding outdoor warning sirens to warn residents of approaching tornadoes. The sirens won't be activated to warn of hail or high winds. No all-clear siren will be sounded, but sirens may be activated multiple times if a tornado threat is ongoing, Fullingim said.

Testing sirens on Saturdays accommodates volunteer groups that assist in storm watches, the fire chief said.

The warning system is intended to alert people who are outdoors that they need to go indoors and seek further information, Fullingim said.

City officials recommend residents use all-weather radios indoors to track approaching storms, Fullingim said.

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