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Emergency management in Audrain County raises money for new siren

Severe weather season began two weeks and and a tornado drill was held across the state Thursday to help prepare residents.

One county is working along those lines to make sure everyone is protected, whether they live within city limits or not.

Audrain County emergency management recently raised enough funds to put a siren in several small towns that had aging systems, including Martinsburg, Benton City, Farber, Laddonia and Rush Hill.

The city of Mexico will be installing six new sirens as well, but the county won’t be paying for those. It’ll be an expense for the city.

But Steve Shaw, director of emergency management, said he is working to put a siren in an area that’s not within any city limits, but he says is not less important.

“We came across Community R-6 School and they have ball fields or several hundred children there at any given time. Across the street is a flea market that’s relatively active in the warmer months, a trailer manufacturer and a large hog operation,” he said. “With all those people being outdoors at any given time, there was really no way to give them an early activation.”

Shaw believes in preparing for dangerous weather always, especially when there’s not a cloud in the sky.

“With nothing going on, I don’t have to be focused on the radar or the events that are coming into Audrain County,” he said. “Obviously there’s always in the back of my mind rail accidents, things that can happen on the bright beautiful sunny days, but primarily we look at those storms and what kind of damage those storms can do.”

So he believes that there could be damage done to the school area if there isn’t a siren put in there.

“Any given weekend there’s hundreds of people around at this area,” he said. “There’s a need to warn them.”

The nearest sirens are about four miles away and can only reach about a half-mile radius.

He said people in the area wouldn’t hear it and if they’re outside at a game or at the flea market, he’s not sure they’ll be able to get the warning any other way.

The county is working to raise the money for the new siren, which ranges between $10,000 and $14,000.

Since it’s not within a city and since they are a smaller county, there aren’t any funding opportunities for projects like this, said Shaw.

He says they’ve gotten so much positive support from the community that there was no reason not to continue with the project plan.

So far the county has raised about $6,400. They need about $10,000.

Ameren will be donating installation and Consolidated Electric will donate the pole. The companies did the same thing in Martinsburg and Benton City.

“It comes down to how valuable is a life and personally I can’t put a monetary cap on that,” Shaw said. “If this siren costs $14,000, it lasts 20 years and we only use it once, and that one time it saves someone’s life, Im pretty sure it’s paid for itself.”

He said he hopes to raise enough funds to get the siren up and running by storm season 2017, which would be between March 1 and the end of September.

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