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Du Quoin proposes adding 6th emergency siren near fairgrounds

By Renee Trappe
updated: 3/17/2022 10:38 PM

The city of Du Quoin is contemplating installing a new emergency storm siren near the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds this summer, that would fill in a "dead spot" in siren coverage on the south side of town.

Two of the city's five sirens are near the American Legion and down by Route 14, and Du Quoin Emergency Management Coordinator Doug Clark said those sirens don't quite overlap the entire fairgrounds.

Each siren, he said, has a 6,500-foot radius of sound, although that can be limited by wind and weather.

The Du Quoin city council on Monday approved putting the $28,000 expense up for public display, and is likely to approve it at the next council meeting March 28. The $28,000 covers the entire expense, including the siren, police, electronic hookup and labor, Clark said.

Mayor Guy Alongi said the city has been aware of the sound gap at the fairgrounds for a few years and decided to address it now.

"The best thing for us to do is put in something that would engulf the fairgrounds," the mayor said. "Another thing is, we've got one of the city's largest employers right across the street (Prysmian Group/General Cable)."

Alongi said also on his mind is the Dec. 10 Mayfield, Kentucky tornado, that killed at least 80 people, nine of them in a candle factory. And he recalls the gust of wind that collapsed the entertainment stage at the Indiana State Fair in 2011, when the temporary roof was lifted off the stage and dropped among the spectators, killing seven people and injuring 58.

Clark said the goal is to have the new siren in place before the 2022 Du Quoin State Fair. The location has not been finalized, although they may look at Fire Station 2, where the city's EMA headquarters are housed.

Both Alongi and Clark said the city has strict guidelines when the emergency sirens are activated -- when a tornado warning has been issued by the National Weather Service, meaning an actual tornado has been spotted; or if a trained spotter sees something faster than the NWS can report it.

Clark said the sirens can be activated from several places in town including by dispatchers at the police station or at the EMA center. Advances in technology mean they also will eventually be able to activate the sirens from portable devices too, he said.

Clark also tries not to "cry wolf" with the sirens. While "I make every effort to test them" at the designated time of 10 a.m. on the first Tuesday of each month, if the weather is bad, Clark might skip the test to avoid confusing people.

Asked if this new siren would be the last one Du Quoin will need, Clark said there might be one more on the horizon. He said when you look at the map, there is one other area on the west side of town that doesn't have the double-siren coverage they prefer.

Clark said as weather patterns get more unpredictable, the sirens will continue to play an important role in community safety. He added that some weather experts seem to think that the so-called Tornado Alley -- those areas of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa and Nebraska where tornado activity is most frequent -- is expanding eastward.