Sound firehouse sirens during emergencies, Kingston Alderwoman Elisa Ball proposes (with video, text of proposal)
KINGSTON, N.Y. — A city lawmaker wants the Common Council to set a policy requiring the sounding of sirens during significant emergencies.
Alderwoman Elisa Ball, a member of the council’s Public Safety/General Government Committee, offered the proposal in wake of a citywide “boil water” advisory that was issued March 16. The advisory set off a flurry of activity, including the closing of Kingston schools.
While the advisory was posted on social media sites and on news media websites, many people were unaware of it, said Ball, D-Ward 6.
“It became readily apparent during the recent water emergency that there is no appropriate emergency alert system in place for the city of Kingston,” Ball said in an email.
During a Thursday meeting of the Public Safety/General Government Committee, Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo appeared resistant to using sirens, saying they might cause panic.
Gallo and city Police Chief Egidio Tinti said there are several different ways of notifying the public of emergencies, including through the New York State Alert System and with text messaging. Tinti said the city also could institute a system in which land-line phones in a specific area are called.
Ball said the policy she proposes would allow the mayor to order fire department sirens to be sounded when a significant emergency, such as the boil-water advisory, occurs.
“Now, and for the foreseeable future, I think that we should utilize what we have at our disposal, at no cost to the taxpayers of the city of Kingston, the fire department siren system,” Ball said. “I think we need to develop a coordinated plan with all the firehouses in the city of Kingston. The plan includes the use of sirens in a predetermined pattern that would alert the residents that something has happened.”
Kingston Emergency Siren Proposal Continued...
Ball said residents should be “educated” to seek additional information through all available services, including online social media and by contacting emergency service agencies.
“That would include local radio stations, public-access television, the city website, Kingston Police Department Facebook page, Kingston Water Department Facebook page, Kingston Fire Department Facebook page and by telephone inquiry to government offices,” Ball said. “Residents would also be encouraged to spread the word to neighbors, family and friends who live in Kingston.”
Ball also suggested siren tests be conducted at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month for 30 minutes.
And beforehand, media outlets could alert the public that the testing will occur, she said.
“It (the test) educates the public as to what the alarm sounds like, while reminding them that if you hear this, and it is not the first Wednesday at 10 a.m., an emergency has occurred,” Ball said.
Ball said the determination of an emergency that would justify use of the siren system would be made by the mayor. In the event the mayor is unavailable, Ball said, the alderman-at-large could make the determination.
“In the event of a real emergency, where the Emergency Alert System is activated, the sirens should ring at 10-minute intervals for one hour or for however long the mayor decides is necessary for the given emergency,” Ball said.
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