Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Opinion

January 23, 2014

EDITORIAL: Tooting our horn for storm warning system

Legislation that would set statewide standards for the operation of storm warning systems seems an appropriate step to get all Hoosiers following the same procedures during emergencies.

Proposed legislation giving the Indiana Department of Homeland Security authority to create such standards is making its way through the General Assembly. We think the law should be adopted.

AS WE HAVE SEEN in past tornado strikes locally and statewide, these storms are not to be taken lightly. Tornadoes have the power to wipe communities from the landscape and kill hundreds of people in just one quick strike. So it makes sense that Hoosiers have the best standards available for storm warnings, and legislation is one way to pull all counties and cities together to obtain such standards.

Our local communities rely on early warnings from storm sirens to give residents time to scramble to basements and other safe areas in their homes. The use of sirens before the Oct. 18, 2007 Nappanee tornado has been credited with saving lives. In Goshen, sirens were replaced in recent years with improved, modern devices that can be heard more reliably above the din of howling winds and thunderstorms.

BUT THERE IS NO STANDARD for when storm sirens are sounded in each Indiana community or county. Each emergency dispatch center crew goes by local standards when they are deciding if and when to push the siren button. Many lives have been saved in Indiana using these local standards, but we think the best procedure would be to draft statewide standards using input from weather and emergency response professionals.

Such standards could be crafted to ensure that Hoosiers in one city would get the same type of warning under the same type of circumstances as every other city in the state. The standards would also give each county’s emergency management teams goals to shoot for and education on when sirens should be utilized.

IN DEALING WITH weather-created emergencies there is no sure thing, but state response standards would give local emergency planners a guide to the best practices to follow and would give Hoosiers the assurance that each community must follow those best practices.

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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