The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 2, 2012

Pittsburg’s storm siren system to get overhaul

PITTSBURG, Kan. — The city soon will see a major upgrade to its storm sirens, some of which failed to sound in the Feb. 28 storm that saw straight-line winds in excess of 100 mph.

Last week, the city commissioners approved awarding a contract to Washington Electronics, a Pittsburg company that was the only one of six companies contacted to submit a bid for the project. The purchase price is $141,700, and the money will come from the sales tax capital outlay fund.

The failure in February occurred because the storm knocked out power before the warning was issued, prompting Public Works Director Bill Beasley to request the City Commission’s authorization to purchase battery backup for existing sirens, to purchase and install a central station control, and to replace three older sirens.

In the months after the storm, the Public Works Department evaluated the storm warning equipment, which includes 13 sirens throughout the city.

The city’s five Vortex storm sirens, which are newer, are located at Lakeside Park, at 27th and Joplin streets, at Potlitzer and Broadway, at Adams and Rouse, and at the Southeast Lift Station on South Rouse. They have battery backup, while three Thunderbolt sirens dating to 1984 located at City Hall, Schlanger Center and Lincoln Center do not. In addition, five Federal sirens throughout the city do not have battery backup.

The five Federal sirens will be converted to direct current, and the three Thunderbolt sirens will be replaced, so all sirens would have battery backup. All will be in compliance with the Federal Communications Commission’s new narrow-band requirements.

The replacement siren at Lincoln Center, which is adjacent to baseball and softball fields and Four Oaks Golf Course, will be replaced with an omnidirectional siren that also can act as a public announcement system through which the city staff can announce approaching thunderstorms or ask people to clear the golf course and ball fields. The messages may be prerecorded or may be made live using two-way radio.

The project will include the installation of a central station control through which all the sirens can be monitored, tested and activated. A silent test will be conducted by sending signals to each siren at a scheduled time year-round, and the controller would notify the user of any problems with the system. All sirens now are tested manually every two weeks from March to October to ensure they are operational, Beasley said.

The project also will include automatic, computerized activation of the sirens when the National Weather Service issues a warning; now, a staff member activates the sirens through the console at the Beard-Shanks Law Enforcement Center.

Solar rejection

THE CITY COMMISSION opted not to purchase stand-alone solar power to three sirens as requested by the city staff. That would have added $8,995 to the purchase price. The savings in electrical costs would have been slight, at just $240 per year, officials said.

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