Marshall County Adding 20 Weather Alert Sirens

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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- A second hazard mitigation grant in two months for brings more than $1 million to the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency .

The county received a grant this month of $407,000 dollars for storm sirens, to go along with about $600,000 in October for community saferooms.

The county will increase the number of sirens from 39 to 59.

Marshall County EMA director Anita McBurnett said it's about when they're needed, not if.

"No longer do we want people to hesitate or say 'just that's a siren going off going off again, that's not going to affect me or impact me'," McBurnett said.

"We want people to take action."

The sirens cost about $29,000 each, but run on a new Polygon system that lets emergency management turn on individual sirens in particular areas,, rather than sounding all the sirens across the county at once.

"With this new technology that has finally caught up with the Polygon warnings, we'll be able to set off those sirens that are going to be in the path of the impacted area," she said.

"If a warning is issued for Arab and it is tracking off to the north, northeast then we won't be sending off the sirens down in Douglas and Boaz."

The upgraded system goes into effect January 1, and also includes a public address system so they can provide additional instructions after a disaster if needed.

"After we go through the canned warnings we can provide further instruction to the people in the area, whether they need to shelter in place, or evacuation orders," McBurnett said.

"If we have a hazardous materail spill we have sirens where we can use that PA."

The locations of new siren towers are only partly based on filling gaps on the map.

"Looking at historical tornado paths, and tracking weather over the years here we've noticed there's a particular area that they seem to track over and there may have been a tornado warning issued but one did not touch down," she said.

As a reminder, sirens are intended for people outside and people indoors should rely on weather radios as their first alert system instead.

The city of Guntersville also received grant funding for seven new sirens.

McBurnett said she hopes to eventually add seven to 10 more, for complete coverage.

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