Regional emergency management agencies get first mobile siren

4/10/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Emergency management has gone mobile in southwest Kansas.

The Southwest Homeland Security Council, consisting of Scott, Lane, Finney, Hodgeman, Kearny, Grant, Haskell, Gray, Ford, Seward and Clark counties, recently acquired a mobile emergency siren that will aid in the protection of citizens throughout the area.

Bill Taldo, Lane County emergency manager, received the siren Monday, the first one distributed in Kansas. It is designed and manufactured by J-NET Warnings LLC, Wichita.

"That's what's so exciting about this. This is our first actual production model that we have sold, and it's the absolute first one of its kind ever produced," CEO Doug Geist of J-NET Warnings said.

According to Taldo, the Southwest Homeland Security Council acquired the siren to enhance the region's capabilities of protecting the public and to provide a reliable, affordable warning system to be used when needed in the region.

The siren system's mobile capability allows it to be deployed for major outdoor events, serve as a temporary warning device for communities, or for temporary replacement of a damaged siren. The device also can serve an incident management team during an emergency to protect recovery efforts.

According to a press release from J-NET, the siren uses compressed air as its primary source of power, allowing the system to operate even during power outages. The mobile siren uses an onboard generator to operate a compressor and keep a standard automotive battery charged. Once the air tank is fully charged, the compressor shuts off and the system is ready to operate. The battery powers the timer and valve to open and close the air flow to the siren's horns. The stored compressed air allows the system to sound several alarms or remain on standby for days.

"And because of the way compressed air works ... even without the generator or without external power, this will operate off of just a single, regular car battery," Geist said.

Finney County Emergency Coordinator Michael Paz-Torres said the 2007 tornado that destroyed much of Greensburg is an example of when a mobile siren unit would have been beneficial.

"The storm came through, and it took everything out. Now you would have a mobile system you could take in there and put into play, and then you'd be able to still have warning for the folks who are there," Paz-Torres said.

Geist said the mobile capability of the system allows for the temporary replacement of a damaged siren.

"Tornado season is relentless. Once a community is affected by severe weather, people are much more vulnerable during the recovery if their warning sirens are out of commission. With a fully self-contained mobile siren and tower, a temporary warning system can be deployed in a matter of hours." Geist said.

Geist cited the Greensburg incident as an example of the vulnerability that residents experienced during recovery from the devastation caused by the initial tornado.

"They had all these first responders, clean-up crews and the community were out there trying to go through everything and start to rebuild their town, and then they had another tornado come down on them," he said. "In addition to police and firefighters using PA and siren systems to warn people, this would just be an additional tool they can use to help protect people."

Geist said that the self-contained design of the unit also will allow anyone familiar with air compressors to repair it, rather than calling in higher-priced specialists.

Paz-Torres said the biggest advantage of the mobile siren is the ability to use it during events where large crowds are gathered.

"Let's say they took it out to Horsethief Reservoir. They may not have access to electricity, but if you had folks out there working and a storm came through, then you know they'd be able to sound the siren and hopefully notify folks and aid in that process," he said.

J-NET was officially founded in 2008 by Deney Geist and is the only Kansas manufacturer of emergency warning sirens. The initial concept for a compressed air siren came after a devastating storm hit Hoisington in 2001.

"My father started developing this about 12 years ago after Hoisington had been hit with a series of tornadoes. Their power lines come in from the west, so the storm had knocked out power to the town, and a lot of their sirens weren't able to function because they didn't have power back up," Geist said.

The company also offers stationary sirens that require only intermittent, 110-volt electric currents to keep the systems at optimal readiness.

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