Pennington County outdoor warning sirens range in power source and age

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - With two siren malfunctions last month at East Middle School, Pennington County Emergency Management aims to update its power systems so all 34 sirens are battery-powered.

Pennington County has 34 sirens in their jurisdiction including two in Hermosa.

The outdoor warning sirens range in power sources, as well as age, with one siren built in 1958.

Pennington County is responsible for two sirens in Hermosa because it's easier to activate them in Rapid City.

"It doesn't tell you what to do, the only purpose of those outdoor warning sirens is to let people know there is an imminent threat to health and safety in that particular area," said Pennington County Emergency Management Director Dustin Willett.

Stop, get informed, decide, watch and listen. Those are the steps the public should take when they hear one of the 34 outdoor sirens including the one on top of the courthouse.

Although the National Weather Service cannot activate the sirens, Emergency Management programmed their siren system to automatically activate based on specific weather service warnings, including tornadoes.

"The National Weather Service issues warnings for tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, which are those that produce large hail or strong straight-line winds that can cause damage, and then flash flooding, those are our common hazards during the summer months," said National Weather Service meteorologist Susan Sanders.

Because of the high cost of sirens, the National Weather Service said towns are more likely to be covered by siren warnings than rural areas.

"If we know a siren is malfunctioning, meaning it's making noise when it shouldn't be making noise, the first step is to go out there and immediately disconnect the circuity so that it stops making noise, but obviously at that point, it's a non-functioning warning tool," said Willett.

Willett's goal is to have all their sirens battery-powered and charged by commercial power to avoid more malfunctions in the future.