EOC gets schools opinion on sirens

Published 4:24 pm Thursday, August 21, 2008

In an effort to better serve schools in the county, officials with Pearl River County’s Emergency Management asked school officials their opinion of ways to improve how the newly installed severe weather sirens are used.

Emergency Management Director Danny Manley called the meeting with the superintendents and some key personnel of Pearl River County and Poplarville school districts Tuesday. Information will be gathered from the Picayune Separate Municipal school district through Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown, Manley said.

Manley said the sirens will be used only in one of three situations; severe weather producing winds of 58 miles per hour or greater, hail that is 3/4 of an inch in diameter or larger or if there is a tornado warning. Manley said since frequent showers pass over in a matter of minutes he fears some people may think they will be safe outside even after they hear the sirens. Manley said the sirens will sound only if the weather is severe.

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“Know that if the sirens go off it’s bad weather. You don’t need to be outside,” Manley said.

The consensus of school officials at the meeting was that there should be a method for the EOC to share information pertaining to the kind of warning being issued. Pearl River County Superintendent Dennis Penton said school officials handle each of those emergency situations differently to get children to safety.

Various ideas to relay that information included calling cellphones or sending text messages. Poplarville Superintendent Carl Merrit said accurate information will help them make decisions in response to the situation.

Manley agreed to send mass text messages to reach groups or use a priority list of school officials to call.

Penton said he would set his phone to use a different ring tone to signify the emergency notification was coming in.

The notifications would be available mostly during the EOC’s operating hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If Manley or his office is given enough notification of a weather emergency or if the office knows children will be on campus after hours, such as at a sports event, then they will work to give personal attention after operating hours, Manley said.

Manley also asked for their opinion on the 30-second all clear siren blast that comes after the danger has passed. He suggested school officials on-site would know better than he when it is safe. Both districts agreed so Manley said his office will no longer issue the 30-second all clear siren blast.

A testing schedule was set for the second Monday of every other month at 2 p.m. The first test will be in October. An adjustment to the length of time the sirens sound was also made. Instead of sounding for only one minute, both districts agreed that they should sound for one minute have a minute of silence and sound for another minute.

Penton said he will look into sending out a newsletter to parents asking them not to come pick up their kids if they hear the sirens. Parents picking up their children in such an event would only put the children in danger.