2013-01-04 / Front Page

That ear-splitting noise you hear is new tornado sirens being tested

By TIM GULLA Ledger Staff Writer tim@gaffneyledger.com


The City of Gaffney Fire Department took delivery Wednesday of its new tornado warning sirens. Weighing approximately 300 pounds each, these giant devices (at top) are designed to get your attention with 130 decibels of volume. The warning sticker (at right) says ear protection is a must for anyone working on them. 
(Ledger photos / TIM GULLA) The City of Gaffney Fire Department took delivery Wednesday of its new tornado warning sirens. Weighing approximately 300 pounds each, these giant devices (at top) are designed to get your attention with 130 decibels of volume. The warning sticker (at right) says ear protection is a must for anyone working on them. (Ledger photos / TIM GULLA) If size is any indication, the City of Gaffney’s new tornado siren system shouldn’t leave anything to doubt when foul weather is approaching.

The city took delivery of two of its three new sirens Wednesday morning. The 2,000-pound load of crated equipment dwarfed a vehicle parked nearby. Part of a months-long effort to upgrade the warning system in the city, the new sirens will be installed at all three city fire stations within the next few weeks.

Previously, the city only had one tornado siren, it being located on top of the headquarters fire station on North Limestone Street. Now it will have sirens at the East Gaffney and Overbrook stations as well, providing an unmistakable warning to at least 80 percent of the city’s approximate 40-square-mile fire district should meteorologists spot the worst approaching Cherokee County.

Fire Chief Jamie Caggiano, who made upgrades to the siren system one of his priorities upon taking command of the department last year, said the goal of the project is to provide an early warning to area residents and to increase safety.

With the first shipment of equipment delivered, Caggiano was already in contact with the electrician who will wire the system together. He hopes the sirens can be hoisted into place and made operational within 30 days.

Weighing approximately 320 pounds each, the sirens will rotate 360 degrees when activated. Powered by vehicle-type batteries in the event of a power outage, the new sirens are rated at 130 decibels, Caggiano said, while the solitary siren currently in place at the headquarters fire station was rated, when new, at just 90 decibels. The old siren was installed about 30 years ago.

The project, which has a total estimated cost of $40,000, went out to bid last year with American Signal Corporation providing the winning bid. A mix of public and private dollars and in-kind help brought the project to fruition. Funding came from the City of Gaffney, state Emergency Management dollars and from The Fullerton Foundation, for instance, while the Gaffney Board of Public Works installed new poles for the sirens at the two substations.

Because the new sirens will not only be much louder, but also cover a much wider area, Caggiano said the fire department will send out some advanced warning before the new sirens are tested.

Tornado sirens across Cherokee County are tested on the first Saturday of every month at 10 a.m. When the sirens are activated for a real tornado emergency, you can expect a full 3-minute blast of noise.

Maps of the projected coverage area show the new sirens should be heard from near Exit 96 of Interstate 85 in the northeast corner of the district to The Timken Company’s bearing plant in the southwest corner of the district.

There are 12 other tornado sirens across the county with one at each of the county’s fire stations.

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