Champaign County To Turn Off Tornado Sirens, Use Calling System


UPDATED: Thursday January 31, 2013 6:47 PM

Champaign county resident Terry Rittenhouse owns an apartment complex in Urbana right down the street from one warning siren.

He said the siren is loud, but soon, it will no longer alert residents in severe weather or any other emergency.

"I think a lot of people are used to these sirens and I wonder if we should really be getting rid of them,” said Rittenhouse.

Sirens have a 30-year life expectancy, according to the Champaign County Emergency Management Agency Director. He said the ones in his county were installed in the mid-1970s and are starting to fail.

"We started having over the last 4 years, 5 years, more and more failures during actual events even,” said Craig Evans, Champaign Co. EMA Director.

There are 28 sirens in the county. Officials said they could not afford the $1 million price tag to replace the sirens.

Instead, the county began last year switching to a CodeRed system. Residents provide their address and phone number, and the system alerts them of potential danger by phone.

"It's not perfect. Neither are sirens, but we are trying to fulfill a mission of public notification,” said Evans.

Evans’ office has mailed out a notification across the county to remind residents of the changes.

“There are still a lot of people out there that we need to touch and let them know that they need to sign up,” he added.

Rittenhouse said that lag in getting people signed up concerns him, but he admits sirens are not 100-percent effective either.

"I don't know if there is a great system,” he said.

Rittenhouse just hopes the new system keeps him and his renters safe.

Champaign County officials said so many people have been trying to register online that the website has been crashing.

They encourage residents to also call the county EMA office. That number is (937) 484-1642.

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