Groups seek solution to sirens failures
by SHANE DUNAWAY
Members of the Alabama Regional Communications System Board of Directors teamed with representatives from McCord Communications and Motorola during a work session held Wednesday.

The group sought out solutions to thwart the ongoing problem of warning siren failures within Talladega and Calhoun counties since February.

Of the 196 siren towers in the counties, approximately 5 percent of them have been experiencing technical difficulties resulting in a failure to activate the siren due to the comparators in the towers not holding the required information.

Though the failure rate remains consistent, emergency management officials from both counties attest that the towers are randomly affected. In the most recent siren testing, three of Calhoun’s 108 towers failed and seven of Talladega’s 88 towers failed.

“It’s not a problem for most people, unless you’re one of the few who lives near a tower that isn’t working correctly,” board chairman Alan Watson said. “Our goal is to make sure any tweaking that needs to happen with the system is done so no one in the community is left out.”

McCord representative Jeff Hutchinson presented a step-by-step analysis of the steps taken by his team members to help fix the issue, but it was to no avail.

After checking into potential software issues and attempting the fix the issue via remote access, Hutchinson insisted it’s time to step it up a notch.

“At this point we’re proposing for the counties to hire an engineer to come directly to the site and troubleshoot the issue,” Hutchinson said. “We need to take our efforts to the next level.”

Kevin Jenkins, an administrator for the board, asked Hutchinson why voice chat attempts transmitted via using one of the affected towers were not impacted by the issue. Hutchinson explained the voice chat features are simulcast and regular data transmissions are not.

At first, it seemed the responsibility for hiring the engineer would fall squarely on the shoulders of the board, but after several minutes of debate, the group determined it would be best to split the cost five ways pending approval from the Talladega County Commission and Calhoun County Commission at their upcoming meetings.

If approved, the ARCS board, McCord Communications, Motorola and both Commissions would be the agencies splitting the cost.

Watson noted the board would vote on this plan at their upcoming meeting Tuesday.

“Splitting the cost makes it easier on everybody,” Watson said. “With this economy, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Spreading the bill between five agencies is much better than one agency having to shoulder the load.”

Contact Shane Dunaway at sdunaway@dailyhome.com

© 2013