BELLEVILLE, Ill. — A Belleville woman said a tornado siren in her neighborhood has not worked in nearly a year.
Michele Wedeking worries about unexpected storms and tornados popping up and residents who may be outside at the time not getting an adequate warning.
She tried to do something about it and called everyone she could: “I sent St. Clair County a message. They referred me to the city. I called the city. They referred me to the fire department.”
The Belleville Fire Department said it was aware of the problem and that there was a work order out on it. The department didn’t know how long it would be before they got it fixed.
Wedeking said she even emailed the mayor, who got back to her saying the city was working on the problem.
FOX 2’s Elliott Davis reached out to Belleville’s relatively new fire chief, J.P. Penet, and asked him how this could happen in the first place.
“I don’t have reports in front of me that state how long the siren has been out,” said Penet. “But what I can tell you is that as soon as I was made aware of it on May 3, I went ahead and contracted the required contractors to go take a look at it, diagnose it, and we have repair already underway. they should be done before the end of the week.”
Authorities traced the problem to a bad battery. The chief said it was essential to get the siren fixed for areas like this that have a golf course nearby with a lot of people outside.
“They’re not designed to be heard while you’re indoors,” Penet said. “The assumption is if you’re indoors, you’re going to be tuned into your FOX 2 weather alerts or you’re going to be tuned into your emergency weather alerts on your phone that you get. So if you’re outdoors, you may not have the access to that. So these tornado sirens are a last-ditch effort to get you inside and under shelter, if there’s a severe weather event.”
Penet said Belleville has nine sirens in the city. He said they found problems with this one and another one that had a bad motor that kept it from turning. He said Belleville would institute a new program to avoid sirens staying broken for so long.
“So I’ve spoken with the mayor,” he said. “She has agreed to implement what we call a preventative maintenance program on these tornado sirens, so we’re not going to wait until they’re broken.”
Michele Wedeking said she’d still like to know why it took so long to get fixed.
“I think if I were doing something wrong they would be on top of me immediately. And in this case, I think that almost a year without a warning is too long.”