Federal grant speeds siren system upgrade

Funding expedites completion of project that will help protect Forest Lake

More emergency sirens, this this one along SW 15th Street, are coming to Forest Lake thanks to a federal grant. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Clint Riese
News Editor

Forest Lake’s network of outdoor warning sirens will be complete come spring thanks to a significant federal grant.

The city has received $126,600 in federal funds that will be used in the purchase of seven sirens. That will bring the total to 15 and complete an upgrade that began eight years ago.

The funding will wrap up a process that otherwise would have taken another seven years, as the city had been on a schedule of adding one siren per year.

“They have each been added where the greatest number of people would be affected,” said Gary Sigfrinius, the city’s emergency management director. “There are some areas on the east and south where the population is the thinnest that haven’t got sirens yet.”

The network features 10 sirens currently, and two of the new sirens will replace current ones. The rest will fill out those thinnest spots.

The final step will come in 2014 with the expected purchase of software and signal equipment that will enable each siren to report malfunctions. Thus, any problem will be identified and fixed  in advance, rather than first showing up during a test or an emergency, Sigfrinius said.

They city will pay for that step, using funds it had expected to use for additional sirens.

The city also is responsible to pay 25 percent of the total cost of the siren package, or $42,200. That amount is roughly equivalent to the combined amount the city would have paid for one signal this year and one in 2013.

“But instead of getting two, we’re getting seven,” said Sigfrinius, who applied for the federal funding a year ago.

The grant stems out of the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000, and the city had to approve Washington County’s latest hazard mitigation plan to become eligible. The Forest Lake City Council happily signed off on that Monday night.

Sigfrinius hopes to have the sirens up and running by next March, after the frost melts. The purchasing and installing falls under the city’s umbrella, while the sirens are run by the county. Providing warning of tornadoes is their most common use.