Grand Rapids getting new warning sirens

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Greg Stefanic has no trouble hearing the alert when a tornado warning sets off the neighborhood siren.

It’s at the firehouse about a block away from his Covell Street home.

“It’s loud enough you’re going to hear it. If you’re standing right here in front of it, you’ll hear it for sure,” Stefanic said as he planted flowers between the sidewalk and curb in front of his home.

But not everyone in every Grand Rapids neighborhood can say that.

The city has dozens of emergency sirens scattered across town. But there are concerns they can’t be heard everywhere, particularly in some northeast neighborhoods.

Something as simple the wind can change the direction in which warnings can be heard.

“You might say the closest one might be to the north of my house. It may be the way the wind’s blowing, the two to the south are the ones you’re going to hear while you’re out in your backyard,” Grand Rapids Acting Deputy Chief Kevin Sehlmeyer said.

There are also places in the city that didn’t require a warning siren decades ago.

So the city will spend just under $140,000 on six new sirens and move two others to improve coverage.

“You put all of these together, and you’ve got a good sound system,” Sehlmeyer said.

But while the changes will allow the sirens to cover more area, they are only part of the alert system, meant to be heard when residents are outside and away from the radio or TV.

“You’re at the park, at a ball game, you’re walking your dog. Those type of things. That’s the intent of the sirens. It’s not to wake you up when you’re sleeping in the middle of the night,” Sehlmeyer said.

Television and radio, particularly a weather alert radio, are a good way to tell people something is coming. There is also newer technology.

“There’s alerts you can get through your phone and such,” Sehlmeyer said. “The sirens is a component of, if you want to say, the total safety package for our residents.”

The new and relocated sirens, which are being paid for via city funds and Homeland Security grants, are expected to be ready to go sometime in the next month.

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