Sales tax holiday can help residents be prepared
If you don’t already have a weather alert radio or other warning system in place, you may want to add one to your list, especially if you live in Talladega County.

The county’s Emergency Management Agency gave notice Tuesday that a potential problem was discovered when the warning sirens in Talladega County and Calhoun County were tested the week before. They may not sound the alarm when severe weather threatens our area. The sirens are activated by the two-county 800-megahertz radio system now managed by the Alabama Regional Communication System.

The system was originally part of the Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness program used when the federal government destroyed chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot. Weather warnings were a bonus added to the sirens, which were primarily put in place to warn the public of exposure in case of an accident with the weapons project — thankfully, they were never needed for that purpose.

Over the years, area residents have become accustomed to the first-Tuesday tests and understand that when they hear the sirens and voice from the tower during stormy weather, it’s getting serious.

With any number of websites, smart phone apps and radio and television broadcasters in our part of the state, it’s easier than ever before to stay abreast of developing weather conditions. But things can change quickly, and having an extra alarm system available can help people take steps for their safety.

The EMAs are working to have the problem corrected, and we appreciate their efforts to notify the public about the potential problem.

But even when they are working reliably, the sirens are not a substitute for taking personal responsibility for safety. Stay alert to the weather, and keep updated when there is a potential for dangerous conditions.

Do what you can to be prepared for a weather emergency. The timing of the EMA announcement coincides nicely with an upcoming sales tax holiday designed to help Alabama residents do just that.

For the second year, the state of Alabama is waiving sales taxes on a number of items that can be used to cope with emergency situations. In our area, Talladega County and all municipalities in the county except Waldo are participating. So is Pell City, and St. Clair County is waiving part of its countywide sales tax. That will help residents get more for their money.

You just might want to make a shopping list and plan a shopping trip for Friday-Sunday, February 22-24. A wide variety of items are eligible for the tax break, including batteries (except coin, car or boat batteries) cellular phone chargers, portable self-powered or battery-powered radios, two-way radios, weather band radios or NOAA weather radios, portable self-powered light sources, including battery-powered flashlights, lanterns or emergency glow sticks, tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, other flexible, waterproof sheeting, ground anchor system, such as bungee cords or rope, or tie down kits, duct tape, plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect window coverings, non-electric food storage coolers or water storage containers, non-electric can openers, artificial ice, blue ice, ice packs, reusable ice, self-contained first aid kits, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, gas or diesel fuel tanks or containers. Portable generators and power cords used to provide light, communications or to preserve food in the event of a power outage must cost $1,000 or less. Other exempt items must cost $60 or less each.

Portable generators are also covered up to $1,000.

And if you don’t have an alerting weather radio, you might want to put that at the top of the list.

We anticipate the sirens will be functioning reliably again fairly soon, but that extra warning can’t hurt.

© 2013