That sound Elmira residents hear every Saturday at noon is not the lunch bell. No, the two short siren bursts are a test of the town’s emergency system.
You’re supposed to take note, a reminder that in the event of a real emergency situation, there’s a safety process to follow. Not everybody’s up to speed, however.
To boost public awareness, the Woolwich Fire Department has been approaching businesses in Elmira to display a poster to inform the public about what to do in case they hear the emergency siren. The poster campaign follows the distribution of fridge magnets to every home
in Elmira and the publishing of a magazine with the proper directions in case the siren is used.
There is also an article in the township’s recreation guide explaining the correct procedures.
If the department uses the siren, residents are expected to go inside and close all the doors and windows, keep their phone lines open and wait for the community alert network message.
“We don’t want everybody to hop in their car and leave town if an emergency does arise – 99 per cent of the time we are all safe inside our houses as long as all the windows and doors are closed. It’s called shelter in place,” said deputy fire chief Dale Martin. “We are trying our best to get the message out.”
The siren system is in place to warn people that are outside to go indoors and wait for a phone message that will relay the directions or inform them when the emergency is over.
“We have a telephone system where everybody in the township could get a phone call stating what the problem is. So anybody within 1,000 metres of Chemtura or any chemical plant in town could get a call if there was an issue,” said Martin.
Currently only Elmira has the sirens, but the fire department is looking to expand the service to other communities in the township.
The siren can be heard every Saturday at noon. During the weekly tests two short calls are used.
In the case of an actual emergency the siren would go on for three minutes.
During the spring the fire department holds an emergency preparedness exercise using the sirens.
“We have used the siren in the past for chemical spills, chemical leaks and fires or anything weather-related like tornados,” said Martin. “Lots of people complain that they don’t hear the siren when they are already in their house, but it is meant for those that are outside to shelter in place.”