Battle Creek Works To Fix Broken Tornado Sirens Before The Next Storm

Posted at 10:33 PM, May 22, 2013

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – As West Michigan continues into severe weather season, making sure all the warning signals in place are working can be a life saving process. 

This Spring in Battle Creek it was discovered that two sirens weren’t working in the Battle Creek area, something that wouldn’t have happened without people paying it forward.

“When you hear those sirens, it’s eminent,” said Officer Mike McKenzie, the emergency manager for Battle Creek.  “That means there is no routine anything about this.”

When all else fails, the tornado sirens are supposed to be something you can rely on to save your life.

So, who is in charge of making sure the tornado sirens are working?

In Battle Creek it’s a team of trained storm spotters who communicate over a network of amateur Ham radio.

“It’s the one communication link that doesn’t go down if everything else goes down,” McKenzie said.

On the first Saturday of every month, one of about 200 volunteers stand in front of each of the 13 sirens across Calhoun County listening and watching to make sure they are in proper working order.

This year, two of the sirens went silent.

McKenzie said, “Those are mechanical devices.  They are in a 365 24/7 environment.  So we always have to monitor them and occasionally we do have power failures.”

When the emergency manager learned of the problem he said, “We got one of them corrected.  We did another siren test and the second one was a mechanical failure, so that is being replaced.”

The importance of a working warning system was on display two years ago over the Memorial Day weekend, storms with winds around 100 miles per hour ripped through the city.

“The biggest thing we have found, we need more trained volunteers,” said McKenzie.

In June of 2011, volunteer storm spotters told the city to sound the sirens six minutes before the National Weather Service issued a warning.

McKenzie said, “Our volunteers are doing a great public service.”

The Battle Creek Department of Emergency Management is always looking for more volunteers to help with storm spotting, those interested in becoming a volunteer should call the Battle Creek Police Department (269) 966-3322.