WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington has addressed the technical failures causing last Wednesday’s failure of the Weather Warn System to notify Clinton County residents of a tornado warning.
“Our warn system automatically engages when the National Weather Service issues weather polygons,” stated Wilmington Police Chief Ron Cravens in a news release Monday afternoon. “When the weather warn system did not engage on Wednesday, we immediately activated the override protocol with a physical activation for the system, which also failed.”
A Wednesday afternoon storm brought high winds including a tornado which briefly touched down in the Clarksville area in both Clinton and Warren Counties.
Cravens and Wilmington Safety Service Director Brian Shidaker were on-site in the emergency dispatch center, where the weather warn system is housed. When numerous attempts to activate the system failed, Cravens notified the Clinton County Emergency Management Agency to use their communication network to attempt to notify residents, the city stated.
B&C Communications, the Chillicothe vendor for the warn system, “arrived shortly after 5:30 p.m. and began diagnosing the issue, which turned out to be the power stabilizer box. The box battery was able to receive the signal but unable to convert into a radio signal,” according to the city. “The battery has since been replaced with a 30-year Motorola battery. Along with that repair, the radio and repeater have been tuned, to ensure the frequency is stable. Additionally, the signal repeater, although still operational, will be replaced under preventative maintenance measures at an expected $15,000 investment.”
Cravens said, “We have good protocols and self-testing already in place for maintenance of this warn system and its failure on Wednesday was an anomaly. I take the warn system seriously, checking the system daily and running silent self-tests quarterly, in addition to our monthly tests on the first Saturday of the month. As a result of this unfortunate event, we have increased our silent self-tests to weekly testing.”
Shidaker noted, “Public notification of extreme weather is important and so is public trust. We begin in February, before tornado season, and work diligently to ensure a properly functioning system. We have logs of successful silent self-tests and preventative maintenance done responsibly and well within the timeline to be prepared for the storm season. For example, the city just replaced eight batteries on the sirens in February.
“I want to reassure the public that this was not our safety services or response team being asleep at the wheel,” he added. “This incident is a rare occurrence and the city is working with our service provider, B&C Communications, to ensure this does not happen again.”
Cravens noted, “We have since run a successful silent self-test and the system is operational. We do have three siren towers that look to have been struck by lightning and replacement parts are on the way, but the system, as a whole, is functioning.
“Most importantly, we are fortunate no one was injured during the storm and moving forward, we have even better measures of troubleshooting should an issue arise,” he said.
Monthly testing set
The city is performing its routine monthly tornado siren test this Saturday, April 2 at noon.
“I encourage the community to report any siren issues from our monthly tests to the non-emergency police line at 937-382-3833,” said Cravens.
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