September 23, 2014

Medina
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Brunswick residents plead for sirens in wake of three summer twisters

George Tindera, of Hadcock Road, asks Brunswick City Council on Monday to set aside money to bring the city’s tornado sirens online. Tindera was among a handful of residents who attended Council’s meeting to air their views on the sirens, which were deactivated in 2008 after a hacker attack. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

George Tindera, of Hadcock Road, asks Brunswick City Council on Monday to set aside money to bring the city’s tornado sirens online. Tindera was among a handful of residents who attended Council’s meeting to air their views on the sirens, which were deactivated in 2008 after a hacker attack. (LOREN GENSON / GAZETTE)

BRUNSWICK — City Council members said they plan to reconsider activating the city’s sirens after three tornadoes hit northern Medina County within a month, two in the city.

Residents pleaded with Council members at Monday night’s meeting to bring the sirens online after sitting silent since August 2008.

“I lived here for 20 years and when those sirens would ring, you knew it meant business,” Hadcock Road resident George Tindera said. “Go ahead and appropriate the money to get the system up and running.”

A tornado touched down in Brunswick on June 23 and another on July 8.

Council discussed the sirens during a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting and Rob Marok, the city’s IT administrator, said he was in the process of evaluating the sirens. He said he could provide an estimate of cost of bringing them online at Council’s July 28 meeting.

The city’s six sirens and the two in Brunswick Hills Township went silent in 2008 after a hacker attacked the system, setting off the sirens in the early morning hours.

In response, the city deactivated the sirens and implemented a “CodeRed service” that provides alerts to home and cell phones. Residents must sign up to get the warnings.

At-Large Councilman Alex Johnson said fixing the sirens was brought up in the spring by At-Large Councilman Brian Ousley but the item was tabled and never made it out of committee.

“Earlier in the year you brought this up and it was squashed,” Johnson said.

Other Council members took offense to his use of the word “squashed.” They said the item was tabled at the request of residents annoyed by the sirens going off at all hours and because they thought getting the sirens online again would be too costly when other city projects needed funding.

“We’re not anti-siren,” At-Large Councilwoman Pat Hanek said. “It had been hacked into and it had become a nuisance.”

After the June 23 tornado damaged homes in Councilman Vince Carl’s Ward 2, he said the estimated cost to fix the siren system, including encryption hardware to prevent hacking, was about $80,000.

Marok said Monday night he thinks there might be a cheaper solution thanks to upgrades already made in the Brunswick police dispatch office. Marok added he want to give a quote on the cost until he has each siren inspected.

“It’s been five years. I want to know what repairs might be needed before I give a final estimate,” he said.

When Marok does get an estimate, he said he hopes to work with Brunswick Hills Township officials to have the township help pay for its share of getting its two sirens back online.

“We’ve had a good working relationship in the past and they’ve expressed an interest in getting the sirens back online,” he said.

Though Brunswick Hills would control the maintenance of its sirens, Brunswick dispatchers would activate all eight sirens at once if there was an emergency.

Charlotte Drive resident Don Keister said he appreciated the reverse-911 (CodeRed) system the city implemented to send weather and police alerts to cell or home phones, but it isn’t enough. He said the calls don’t reach all the residents because you have to opt into the system and nonresidents who may be in the city won’t get any alert.

“What it costs to encrypt this is very, very small compared to the loss of one person,” he said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com. Follow her on Twitter @lorengenson.