Some Concerned About County's Decision to Turn Off Tornado Sirens
In the wake of the destructive tornado in Oklahoma City on Monday, some Champaign County residents question whether turning off the tornado sirens is the right decision.
"The concern of course is knowing that the storm is coming," Roger Kramer told 10TV's Jason Frazer.
Champaign County says the sirens were outdated and would cost about $1 million to replace them. Instead, it has replaced the emergency alert system with Code Red, a phone and email service, for a fraction of the cost.
"It can actually alert you on different types of weather events where as the sirens were just for tornados. So we included flash floods, storms," says Craig Evans of the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency.
County officials say the system can also send out warning messages to specific areas.
Kramer says the system is dependent on cell phone service and he worries what would happen if the towers are damaged during a storm. Kramer says during a tornado he witnessed in Indiana, cell phone service was temporarily offline.
"The only thing that really warned us again that another storm was coming was when the sirens went off. So we lost all cell service," says Kramer.
The county admits the system isn't flawless but they say it is safe.
"No system is perfect. The sirens weren't perfect. We had to have electricity to operate them," Evans told 10TV's Jason Frazer.
Evans says the majority of residents like Mike Dalton support the change.
"Champaign County is a pretty rural area. So for the people that live outside of town, they may not hear the sirens but they can get the text messages," say Dalton.
The county says so far 25 percent of residents have signed up for the Code Red program.