Georgetown woman petitions for more tornado sirens in city

A Georgetown woman says the tornado siren system in her city needs a major upgrade.  During the Memorial Day storms, she and her neighbors didn't hear them go off.

Jill Fussell moved to Central Texas about 5 years ago to build a house.  She had heard about the devastating tornado in nearby Jarrell in the late '90s.  So with the help of some FEMA instructions, her builder helped her make a safe place to go in a storm.  It came in handy during this year's Memorial Day weather.

"I started getting knocks on my door.  I have several neighbors with small children and they all know I have a tornado safe room in this house," she said.

That safe room is where Ms. Fussell went along with 9 of her neighbors on May 25th after they couldn't hear any tornado sirens.

Worried children playing outside the school in her neighborhood wouldn't have been properly warned had school been in session, Fussell petitioned the city to put in more sirens.  She delivered the document with 103 signatures to city council last week.

Georgetown fire chief John Sullivan says  it was confirmed a twister did touch down in the city.  He's been in contact with Fussell and told her plans for a new outdoor warning system are already in the works.

"We've got 7 sirens that are existing now.  But the community has grown exponentially since the original installation," Sullivan said.

The new plan adds 16 sirens and the existing 7 will be evaluated.  It's expected to cost around $600,000.

"By using some federal funds, the impact to our Georgetown tax-payers will be much less.  We're looking at about a 25% match on that so about $150,000," he said.

Sullivan says the point of the sirens though is to alert people outside...not inside their homes.

"Some homeowners who are in close proximity to these will hear those but they should not rely upon them as being the sole source of communication or warning," Sullivan said.

The chief says they will also be making some changes to their already existing reverse 911 alerts.

Fussell is glad she could help support the chief's plan.  And just hopes the sirens will be installed sooner rather than later.

"It needs to be expedited.  It needs to be done in time for this tornado season to be worthwhile and we don't need any disasters here like we've had in Jarrell in the past," she said.

Chief Sullivan says they're hoping to get the plan before council this September.  And due to the breeding season for an endangered bird called the Warbler, they don't expect to get them installed until February of next year.