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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Faulty tornado warning system to receive upgrade to wireless network

Thursday, December 6, 2001

Fire Chief says monthly tests revealed no instances in which all five tornado sirens worked at same time.

The Alta City Council voted to update and fix the city's tornado warning system Monday evening after tests over the past few months revealed the sirens did not operate correctly in any of the experimental runs.

There were no instances in which the five sirens, located at the water treatment plant, West Links, the city park, the west trailer court and near 30th Avenue north of town, all went off at the same time, and the highest number of sirens which worked at once was two.

Alta Fire Chief Gary Molgaard said the system, which is currently connected through telephone wires, should be changed into a wireless network to help provide the citizens of Alta with a reliable tornado warning infrastructure.

"We tested the sirens every month, and not once did all of them work at the same time," Molgaard said. "The most we ever had work at once was two out of the five, and I think we're giving our citizens a false sense of security if that's the highest number that can work at once here in town."

The current tornado warning system is controlled from a local communication center, which pages the tornado siren in the city park whenever there is an emergency or simply a test. The park siren is then supposed to signal the other four alarms through telephone wires connecting the entire network.

While not problematic in theory, Molgaard said the telephone wires are highly vulnerable to the elements during storms, making it more likely for something to go wrong when the network may be needed the most in town.

"There could be a number of things that could go wrong with the current system," Molgaard said. "For example, if there's a big storm and something hits the telephone line, like a branch or tree, then that cuts off the reception from one siren to another, and that's one area that might not get the warning it needs."

Molgaard said the city would be able to correct the situation by simply attaching individual receivers to each of the five sirens, which would allow the communication center to trigger each alarm separately.

This would give those at the central command more control over the warning situation, instead of only being able to set off one alarm and then hope the telephone wires would deliver the message to the other four.

The updates would cost the city $2,368, and Molgaard said the wireless system would definitely be a welcome addition to the town.

"Alta's one of the few towns around the area that isn't wireless, and I think it makes sense to do this," Molgaard said. "It should help keep the community safe, and that's the whole reason behind this. We want to help keep the citizens of Alta safe."

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