Oak Lawn residents will hear a new tornado siren on Tuesday when the system is tested.
The siren replaces the voice emergency alerts, which were disabled Nov. 18, one day after a severe storm led to numerous complaints about the volume and the various languages in which the warning was broadcast.
The previous system featured an alarm followed by an emergency warning in English, Spanish, Polish and Arabic.
Residents complained that the siren was either too loud or too soft while others said the warning should not be broadcast in languages other than English.
A sample of the new siren can be heard on Mayor Sandra Bury’s blog, www.mayorbury.com.
Bury said at Tuesday’s village board meeting that residents cannot rely solely on emergency sirens to warn them of tornados and other disasters.
“It is important that everyone realize that sirens are not the answer. You need to be prepared. Be aware of your environment,” Bury said.
She encouraged residents to obtain a coupon at village hall that allows them to purchase a Midland NOAA radio at Walgreens at 95th and Cicero for $20. The radio costs $40 without the coupon.
Coupons will be available at village hall from Dec. 2-6 and will be accepted at Walgreens from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31.
Bury also encouraged residents to register for the Everbridge system, which sends emergency alerts via phone, email or text message. The majority of residents are not signed up for the system, she said.
Trustee Bob Streit said promoting the weather radio is an admission on the village’s part that the sirens aren’t sufficient.
“Many people believe that the village’s solution is to get a weather radio. I think what’s happened is that [the village] realizes that the system isn’t working so now we’re going to supplement with a weather radios,” Streit said.
Streit also criticized the village for sending mixed messages about the siren system.
“This was serious,” he said. “Our public safety is at risk if [residents] don’t hear the tornado sirens. Many people claim they can’t hear them.”
Streit said the village should have held a public hearing to allow residents to weigh in on the issue.
“Ever since these sirens were installed, people have been complaining and the village didn’t do anything about it,” Streit said. “I don’t think we know if the siren is loud enough to be heard in the homes. I don’t think that question has been answered. I think we’ve gotten inconsistent messages.”