Failed siren fix for Hamilton County

By Stefano DiPietrantonio – bio |email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A deadline to spend 2.2 million dollars on new warning sirens and to make improvements to old ones in Hamilton County is coming-up fast.

County leaders know what they have to do, but keep failing to do it. This failed fix could mean trouble for thousands of people right now.

There are parts of western and southeastern Hamilton County, where no one can hear the tornado sirens. Bids for this project were rejected again and delayed three times, over the past year and a half.

Newly-named Chair of Hamilton County's Emergency Management Agency's Executive Committee Todd Portune said he is initiating a probe to find-out who submarined this third failed attempt.

"There's no excuse for what took place," Portune said. "That we have yet another problem in being able to fix completely our siren system."

This year's severe weather season, roughly 135 thousand people in Hamilton County will be left without -- No new sirens within their hearing range, because of an as yet, unnamed glitch somewhere in the system.

"I can understand messing it up one time, two times frankly shouldn't happen, three times is inexcusable and we will probe and get to the bottom of what occurred here and those that are accountable need to be held accountable," Portune said.

Areas of Hamilton County, where you cannot hear a warning siren right now, will have to rely on the reverse 911 system, already in-place, which will call your landline in the event of an emergency.

"You've got large swaths of Colerain Township, Green Township, Whitewater Township that lack coverage," Portune said. "Colerain Township and Green Township are the two most-populated townships in the entire state of Ohio."

The plan is to add new sirens, and an alternate source or battery back-up for some of the older sirens like the one on top of the YMCA downtown. So there will be a mix of new sirens, sprucing-up the old ones, and re-positioning others to eventually cover everyone.

"Today, the best we can do is by quadrant," Portune said.

Whether it's the siren on top of St. Bernard Elementary School or anywhere else in the county, within a year, county leaders should be able to pick and choose which siren they want to fire instead of alarming the entire county.

"After this fix is done, we'll be able to activate just a single siren if need be, if that's the only area that needs to be covered," said Portune.

But the county only has a few weeks left to spend more than two million dollars in grant money or lose it.

"May 31st," said Portune. "So we gotta get this done soon, we've gotta get it done yesterday basically to spend the money and that's our number one priority right now."

Portune adamantly stated the county will not lose the grant money, the sirens will get bought and he said, by this time next year, Hamilton County should have a system far superior to any other in the country.

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