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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Genoa City sirens failed to sound

By Mike Heine/The Week

More: Tornado rips through Kenosha County subdivision ... story

Terry Mayer/The Week
After the storm passed Genoa City Monday, it spawned a tornado that ripped the front off this Kenosha County home.

As the wind whipped and whistled outside Monday afternoon, Genoa City's tornado siren failed to whistle at all.

"It's pretty upsetting because we pay so much taxes and we can't even have a tornado siren go off," said Shannon Beck, a village resident.

"What do we have to do? We have to wait until it's too late? Until it touched down?"

The Walworth County Sheriff's Department set off the tone to signal the sirens in its dispatch area at 3:31 p.m., said Communications Capt. Jay Maritz.

The signal, which is broadcast on fire paging frequencies, sets off all the tornado sirens in the communities the sheriff's department dispatches for, Maritz said.

He said the problem seemed local. There were no other reported problems with sirens in the rest of the county, he said.

"Either A, their siren is broke, or B, their tones are not programmed correctly for whatever reason," Maritz said of the situation in Genoa City.

Village officials are diagnosing the problem.

"We're trying to get an assessment of what happened and why," Bloomfield/Genoa City Fire Chief Brad Poltermann said. "At this point, we're not really sure why they didn't go off. We're investigating it."

Poltermann expects the fire department, police and the village board to discuss protocols on what to do when the siren fails to wail. It can be set off manually, he said, but it wasn't Monday afternoon.

"That's another thing I'm looking into," he said. "Who in the village is responsible for setting them off and who is responsible for giving the all clear. I don't know. I haven't seen the policy."

There should have been a backup plan, Poltermann said.

The village was spared any significant damage, police Sgt. Mike Sireno said.

Beck's family took precautions because of her weather radio. She said the village should have done something to warn residents, maybe even sending police out with megaphones.

"It could be too late next time this happens," Beck said.

Janesville Gazette Reporter Stacy Vogel contributed to this article

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