County adds 20th outdoor warning siren to alert public

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By Jeff Moore

Anyone who was on the campus at Carroll County High School last Wednesday will know this already. Carroll County’s 20th Community Outdoor Warning System is in and working.

The new, solar-powered warning siren is upgraded to be louder than the other 19, allowing it to be heard from the football field and track area all the way across the high school campus to Cartmell Elementary School for its first monthly test.

“When you’re on the school campus, it’s pretty loud,” Carroll County Emergency Management Director Ed Webb said in a Thursday interview.

This warning siren was made possible with $17,015 donated by the Community Advisory Panel of Dow Corning and PMC Organometallix and the county’s Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Carroll County has better warning siren coverage than any of its neighbors. Owen County has five COWS, while there are four in Trimble, three in Henry and none in Gallatin County. Switzerland County in Indiana has four COWS.

Webb said Carroll County has warning sirens at every city, county and state park, at all of the school campuses, in all areas where outdoor activities take place and in communities that have a large number of mobile and modular homes.

He credits two factors for the county’s large number of COWS.

“We put a lot of importance in putting these warning sirens where we think they need to be,” he said. “We’ve also been very fortunate with grant funding for the warning sirens.”

Webb said there are other areas he and county officials hope they can put additional COWS in the future.

How they operate

Webb said emergency management tests COWS on the first Wednesday of each month between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., weather permitting. If it is overcast, raining or there are any severe weather warnings for the area, the test is delayed to the next week. This holds true on each Wednesday through the month until the warning sirens can be tested.

“We’re not going to alarm people if we don’t have to,” Webb explained.

Other than for testing, the only time warning sirens are set off is in the event of a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service or a tornado or funnel cloud is reported by one of the county’s trained weather-spotters.

This is the same standard used by all 13 Northern Kentucky counties, he said. The sirens are not used for tornado watches, only warnings.

With its good team of weather-spotters, Webb said emergency services has set off the sirens minutes ahead of the Wilmington, Ohio, office of the National Weather Service issuing tornado warnings for the county. The March 2012 tornados are examples of how weather spotters throughout the county help with early warnings, because Carroll County is at the edge of the area covered by the Wilmington weather office.

The last five times the COWS have been used in tornados, Webb said they have been activated at least three minutes before tornado warnings were issued, giving local residents more time to move to safety.

Other communities in Kentucky and around the nation have used different types of tones for different types of warnings, but that forces those hearing the sirens to interpret what is happening. By only setting off the sirens for tornado warnings, Webb said this helps reduce confusion for local residents and those who may be visiting here.

By using this policy, anyone in the Northern Kentucky region will know that a warning siren means there is a tornado warning.

The county’s COWS also can transmit voice messages, much like loud speakers, Webb said. They can be used to deliver messages to those nearby, to warn of the need to shelter in place if there is a chemical release from one of the plants or other emergency situation in the county.

Where they are located

The 20 Community Outdoor Warning Systems are spread around Carroll County. Webb said these are the locations:

• Carroll County High School campus

• Easterday, next to the parsonage at White’s Run Baptist Church

• Easterday Road, near the entrance to Camp Kysoc

• English, behind the church parking lot

• General Butler State Resort Park, next to the tennis courts across from the lodge

• Ghent, at the fire department

• Greens Bottom Road, at the intersection with Sandlin Road

• The center of Happy Hollow

• Highland Avenue at the intersection with Carraco Lane near PMC Organometallix

• Highland Avenue at Point Park

• Hwy. 42 West at Harbor Point

• Hwy. 227 at the National Guard Armory

• King’s Ridge Road, where it intersects with R.D. Kindoll and Windy Ridge roads

• Martin Road, near the glass house and subdivision

• Mound Hill Road

• Oak Lane near Robert Westrick County Park and Oakview Estates

• Old Hwy. 227 South, across from Arby’s

• Sanders at the fire department

• Worthville at the fire department

• Ninth Street at the intersection of Butler Street at DRC Industries