Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (90th AD) is calling on the owners of the Indian Point Nuclear Facility to upgrade the existing outdoor warning systems with a type of siren that can carry voice announcements. Presently, the nuclear facility relies on old-fashioned sirens that emit a loud "horn-like" sound to warn citizens when there is an emergency at the plant.
"Local residents are always telling me that they become apprehensive and confused when they hear a siren because they are unsure whether it signifies an emergency at Indian Point, a test of the plant’s emergency system, or is from the local fire company," stated Galef. "Although the nuclear facility does try to warn the community when it is testing their sirens through newspapers and radio, many of the county’s residents do not learn of the information until after flooding their local municipalities with telephone calls to inquire the meaning of the sirens."
Martha Klein, of Ossining, provided a perfect example of the dismay citizens’ face when they hear the sirens wail. According to Ms. Klein, she was driving in Briarcliff Manor with a group of children in her car during a recent testing of the sirens. When she heard the sirens, she immediately turned on the local radio stations. "I wasn’t sure if it was a fire or some other sort of emergency. I was frightened and there was nothing on the local radio telling me what the sirens were for." Ms. Klein learned that Indian Point was testing sirens only after flagging down a police officer.
Voice activated sirens have already been used in cities across the country, including Oklahoma City, Chicago, and Dallas. These cities used the new technology to upgrade their existing Cold War-era sirens that had been built to warn citizens in case of a nuclear attack. Oklahoma City presently uses the new voice activated sirens to warn residents of severe weather like tornadoes.
According to Galef, "Utilizing the new technology would help assure that there is no doubt whether or not there is an emergency situation at Indian Point. This will help ease the concerns of our citizens during system tests and assure a more quick and efficient evacuation in case of an actual emergency at the plant."