Local firefighters want more tornado sirens, urge citizens to purchase weather radios

Local firefighters want more tornado sirens, urge citizens to purchase weather radios

June 8th, 2011 by Katie Ward in Catoosa

Catoosa County Fire Department Fire Chief Chuck Nichols, left, and Battalion Chief Steven Quinn, who also serves as Emergency Management Agency director, are asking for more tornado sirens. Photo by Katie Ward

Catoosa County Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Quinn and Fire Chief Chuck Nichols both say they would like to see more tornado sirens in the county.

Fire Department officials are applying for grant funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency and Georgia Emergency Management Agency to purchase more tornado sirens and weather radios for the county.

"We have two emergency tornado sirens in Catoosa County," said Quinn. "One is located at Ringgold's Fire Station No. 1, and one is on the property of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. We are definitely in favor of citizens purchasing weather radios."

In the aftermath of the April 27 tornado, local firefighters along with 80 agencies from Georgia Mutual Aid assisted in recovering 30 injured citizens and eight fatally wounded in Catoosa County. Nichols said citizens should pay attention to weather reports and buy weather radios to program for Catoosa County updates.

He said emergency sirens are used to alert people outdoors to take cover but are limited in the siren's ability to penetrate structures.

"A study should be done to see where emergency sirens would be the most effective in the county," said Nichols. "It would require a number of sirens in a small geographic area [due to topography limiting the sound]."

Every first Saturday of the month at noon the existing tornado sirens at Fire Station No. 1 in Ringgold and at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School are tested. Firefighters say the sirens are only tested on nice weather days, so that people don't confuse it with an actual tornado alert. Tests are delayed one week in the event of inclement weather and if weather is bad again, then the tests occur one month later.

Quinn and Nichols agree that there is a much greater awareness of severe weather potential in the South following the tornado.

"It will take being prepared," Nichols said. "People can sign up for weather alerts on their cell phones through weather.com."

He said people can also visit ready.ga.gov to see what to do to prepare for tornadoes. He said it details creating a family plan in case of an emergency and putting together a kit of supplies needed in a power outage.

Nichols said the April tornado covered a large geographic area in the county. He said the tornado damage was broken down into three geographic regions including the area west of I-75, Ringgold and Cherokee Valley.

Catoosa County Fire Department officials would like citizens to know that they can continue to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding assistance online at www.fema.gov through June 28. Also firefighters warn citizens that the Georgia Burn Ban is now in effect through October, so no burning will be allowed in Catoosa County. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issues the burn ban to comply with air pollution controls.

Catoosa County Fire Department's Ringgold Fire Station No. 1 is at 5282 Evitt St. behind the Ringgold Depot. The department can be reached at (706) 935-2001.