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Hamilton County Upgrading Emergency Sirens

Tana Weingartner

Hamilton County is beginning the process of upgrading the outdoor warning siren system in the county. But you won't notice any changes to the siren that's close to your neighborhood. 

Instead, technicians are upgrading the computer and software that serves as the "backbone" of the system.

The county's Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency said the upgrade for the 196 sirens in the county began Monday and, weather permitting, will be completed in about three to four weeks.

Agency Director Nick Crossley said part of the upgrade focuses on "enhanced security," especially to the alerting software that activates the sirens.

"That actually sends out the tone to the sirens so that it will be encrypted," Crossley said. "So less likely to be, shall we say - hacked, if you will - and broadcast by some nefarious actor."

The new software will also allow the county to better define which sirens are activated when severe weather warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.

"While on paper it says a tornado warning has been issued for Hamilton County, it's actually in a polygon shape and it's a very finite area," Crossley said. "And so, we hope to, after we become comfortable with the new control system, that we will link our sirens to those polygons so that we can set off fewer sirens. We only want to alert the people that are actually under the threat area."

Crossley said technicians will have to visit every siren in the county and perform work on the control box for it. During the process, you may hear the siren briefly sounding in that area.

Officials will be monitoring weather conditions and work will be stopped if there's a threat of severe weather.

Crossley said it's important to remember that the sirens are "outdoor warning devices" and are not mean to be heard inside. Officials recommend having a NOAA weather radio or signing up for Alert Hamilton County for weather and other emergency alerts that can be sent to your phone or email.