Columbiana considers siren policy change

By NICOLE LOGGINS / Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – The Columbiana city council held a work session following the regular council meeting on Tuesday night to hear from guest speakers as the council considers changing the current severe weather siren policy.

Jim Stefkovich, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Calera, explained the current severe weather notification system, which uses a “polygon” concept.

Stefkovich said that technological advances in analyzing and predicting the path of severe weather patterns allow meteorologists to more accurately warn citizens of approaching storm cells.

According to Stefkovich, a polygon system means a multi-sided warning system. It’s a moving type of warning, which means as a storm cell moves through the county the NWS is able to pinpoint areas that are no longer in danger and lift any expired warnings or watches.

Bentley Farr, a local electronics expert, provided estimates of the cost associated with making the city’s eight sirens accessible to the Shelby County Emergency Management Agency. SCEMA would activate the sirens if Columbiana were included in a NWS tornado warning.

“According to Mr. Farr, the cost to modify the outdoor sirens would be at least $4,000, which includes equipment, training and alert devices provided to local schools by the city,” Mayor Allan Lowe said.

Columbiana Fire Chief Johnny Howard also addressed the council and said that he supports revising the policy to reflect the polygon system of activation, but cautioned that the sirens will most likely be sounded much more than they are now.

“Tonight’s meeting was very productive and I have a strong feeling that the council will vote to adopt a new policy reflecting the polygon-type system,” Lowe said. “Based on what I heard tonight, I will support such a change, and I will make sure that people are aware of our alert method through the city website, newsletter and other means available to us.”