The sirens, which cost between $32,000 and $36,000 each, were built using part of a 2010 West Virginia Regional Resilience Assessment Program Grant, funded through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to Larry Zuspan, administrator of the Kanawha/Putnam Emergency Planning Committee, the siren portion of the grant was $732,000 and helped to build the five Putnam County sirens, as well as 17 similar sirens in Kanawha County.
"Fifteen years ago, they had just 'tone sirens' all across the valley, from Belle to Nitro," Zuspan said. "The reason we had those sirens was mainly because of the chemical manufacturing facilities we had across the valley floor. Whenever there was a chemical emergency, those sirens would go off, and when local residents heard them, they would know to go inside, turn their television or radio on and wait for additional information."
Zuspan said the added voice capability of the new sirens has made them a superior warning tool to the older sirens, and he hopes that more sirens will mean a safer area in the event of a disaster.
"The migration path now is to get more of those voice sirens through the valley floor," he said.
In addition to the Putnam county sirens, there are two sirens in Charleston, as well as sirens in Dunbar, Glasgow, Kanawha City, Montgomery, Yeager Airport, and other areas.
"These sirens are very, very loud, and they are a wonderful tool to have in your emergency-management tool pouch," Zuspan said. "The emergency managers can set any one of these sirens off during a disaster -- let's say something is going on in Montgomery, they can set just that one siren off and speak into that siren with a message if they needed to."
For more information on the disaster warning sirens or other emergency preparedness programs in Putnam and Kanawha counties, visit www.kpepc.org.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.