Some residents can’t hear Ionia prison sirens

The Ionia Correctional Facility. (Feb. 3, 2014)

IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — The sirens at the Ionia Correctional Facility were tested Wednesday morning for the first time since the Feb. 2 escape of convicted murderer Michael Elliot.

The sirens are supposed to alert people who live near the prison that somebody has escaped and advise them to watch out — but a warning is good only if people hear it.

After Elliot’s escape, a lot of people complained that they didn’t hear the warning sirens.  Wednesday’s test provided an idea of why not.

24 Hour News 8 door-to-door on Lincoln Avenue, which runs behind the prison, after the sirens did their job.
Only one of the four people who were at home said he heard the test.

Joyce Hamp said she did not year the sirens during the test, but she said she did hear the sirens the night Elliot escaped.

“I came out and checked the garage door and I heard the siren,” she said.

She said she can’t hear the sirens when she is indoors.

Across the road, the prison is just outside Bonnie Dennis’ back door.  She didn’t hear the test or the warning when Elliot got out.

“Normally during the winter because the windows are shut and you can’t normally hear anything, but in the summertime I can hear them just fine.  They’re loud and annoying,” Dennis said.

So if the escape warning works only part-time, has there been an effort to find something that works better? Ionia Mayor Dan Balice said yes.

“Frankly the best chance that we have is the enhanced 911 system, which will allow you to register your information and your location with Central Dispatch, and they will be able to communicate to people within a certain radius whenever something really important is going on,” Balice said.

Essentially, the system is like 911 calling you.

But Ionia County Central Dispatch doesn’t have that tool. Dispatch wants it and is going to ask local governments to help pay for it.

“We’re way better able to communicate instantaneously with a large group of people than we used to be, but we got a ways to go,” Balice said.

Ionia County Central Dispatch is meeting in March with community leaders to see if it can buy the warning system.

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