Warn­ing sirens on the agenda as Welles­ley coun­cil re­views last month’s tor­nado in­ci­dent

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

WELLES­LEY TOWN­SHIP

IS LOOKING at in­stalling warn­ing sirens in the wake of a tor­nado that hit the Hawkesville area last month.

The fol­low-up re­view of the sit­u­a­tion was part of Tues­day night’s coun­cil meet­ing in Crosshill.

Re­spond­ing to res­i­dent con­cerns, of­fi­cials dis­cussed var­i­ous mea­sures for alert­ing the pub­lic.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pre­pared by Welles­ley fire chief Paul Red­man, the town­ship does have an emer­gency alert sys­tem in place that no­ti­fies the pub­lic through tele­vi­sion and ra­dio. There is also work be­ing done with the Re­gion of Water­loo to in­clude au­to­matic tele­phone warn­ings as well, sim­i­lar to the com­mu­nity alert net­work in place in neigh­bour­ing Wool­wich Town­ship.

Of­fi­cials have con­cerns, how­ever, about the lim­i­ta­tions of a phone-based no­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem given its de­pen­dency on technology.

“Many of our town­ships res­i­dents do not have tele­phones, com­put­ers and tele­vi­sions let alone power in their homes,” reads the re­port.

The emer­gency sirens,

on the other hand, if im­ple­mented would negate those con­straints, and give peo­ple, whether they are in their homes or out­side.

A rough es­ti­mate re­ceived from Spec­trum Com­mu­ni­ca­tions puts the cost per siren at $80,000 to $100,000, de­pend­ing on the type of equip­ment. The au­di­ble range for the sirens would be be­tween 30 me­tres and 3.2 kilo­me­tres, de­pend­ing on the type. Main­te­nance is put at $15,000 to $20,000 a year, with the sirens hav­ing an ex­pected life­span of 10 to 15 years.

Coun. Herb Ne­her ex­pressed sur­prise at the cost of emer­gency sirens, say­ing it was far higher than he would have ex­pected.

The coun­cil ac­cepted the re­port, though for the mo­ment will be tak­ing no fur­ther ac­tion on im­ple­ment­ing an emer­gency siren sys­tem.

The tor­nado in Hawkesville on Au­gust 11 had caught those res­i­dents in its path com­pletely off-guard. One res­i­dent, Naomi Wide­man, told the Ob­server af­ter­wards that the storm had been as sud­den as it was dra­matic.

The fam­ily’s farm was in the di­rect path of the EF2 tor­nado, which struck their prop­erty so quickly and with so lit­tle warn­ing that some of her chil­dren did not even have time to get in­side the house when it hap­pened, hav­ing to take shel­ter in nearby sheds. For­tu­nately, though there was sig­nif­i­cant prop­erty dam­age, no one was harmed and the fam­ily home was largely un­dam­aged.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by En­vi­ron­ment Canada, the re­gion has not seen many tor­na­dos of the mag­ni­tude of the one that hit Hawesville last month. The last tor­nado with 180 km/h winds or faster to hit Water­loo Re­gion was in 1983 in Cam­bridge; be­fore that was 1967 in St. Ja­cobs.

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