Why no tornado sirens? Dayton officials respond

Published: Thursday, May 30, 2019 @ 11:17 AM

Some residents have asked Dayton leaders why they didn?€™t hear emergency warning sirens during Monday?€™s tornadoes.

Some residents have asked Dayton leaders why they didn’t hear emergency warning sirens during Monday’s tornadoes.

The answer is simple: Dayton doesn’t have them.

About 20 years ago, Dayton decided to unplug its warning siren system on the grounds it was too expensive to operate.

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Dayton officials at the time justified the decision by saying the system was so old that replacement parts were no longer made and many sirens did not work.

“We had a warning system in place that was obsolete, that was unreliable because of the maintenance and age,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Dickstein’s comments were in response to questions posed by 60-year-old resident Brenda Jewett, who asked why she didn’t hear warning sirens.

“I feel if there are no sirens, then our lives were put seriously in danger,” said Jewett, who noted that she learned about the tornadoes from her cell phone.

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Dayton had about 23 sirens between the 1950s and turn of the century, which were originally installed to warn of attacks but later were used for tornado notifications.

Dayton’s size makes it very difficult to create a reliable tornado alarm system, Dickstein said.

Dayton deputy fire chief Jeff Lykins said tornado sirens were never meant to wake people up in the middle of the night.

He said the warnings are to alert people outdoors to get inside.

He also said tornado sirens need electrical power to operate, and tornadoes often knock out that power.

Mayor Nan Whaley said she also has been asked about sirens. She said small communities have sirens, but large communities do not.

Whaley said the cell phone warnings were very helpful and the media did good work to alert the public.