Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

August 15, 2013

City’s siren protocol explained

GOSHEN — Tornado sirens blared over Goshen twice in the last week when there was no tornado, raising questions about what causes the sirens to be set off.

According to Egbert Dijkstra, director of the Elkhart County 911 Center, the policy has been in place for several years.

The first part of the procedure is that when a tornado warning is issued by the National Weather Service, the sirens are set off and the center notifies the all departments in the county that they are responsible for.

If a tornado is spotted by a reliable source; a trained weather spotter, police officer or firefighter they set off the sirens in the city of Goshen.

Dijkstra said that the center is responsible for setting off the sirens in Goshen only but will be in charge of setting off Bristol in the future. Other cities in Elkhart County are on their own system.

He said the other part of the procedure is that if anyone calls 911 and says a tornado is on the ground, then they trigger the same tornado warning procedure and dispatch a police officer to check it out.

However, Dijkstra said that the procedure will not be implemented if there is only a funnel cloud spotted.

“When someone says there is rotation in the clouds we do not set off the sirens because that is not a tornado,” he said.

According to Dijkstra, the two alarms in the last week are more of an unfortunate coincidence than something that should trigger a change in policy.

Should one city that the center oversees want to change the policy, Dijkstra says that they would need to set a policy for all the departments.

“We do feel a responsibility to warn the public, but we dispatch for other departments,” he said.

“We work with the officials from the city of Goshen and if they think there is a concern and they want to change it then we all sit around a table and discuss it.”

“But we have to change it for all the communities and not just one that we are responsible for, there would have to be consistency,” he said.

On Aug. 7 the sirens were set off following a report of a tornado on Goshen‘s south side, but it turned out to be a cloud known as a “scud” to weather experts, which resembles a funnel cloud.

Monday the sirens were sounded again when Dijkstra said a citizen called 911 to report a tornado in the area of Walmart on Lincolnway East but an officer was quickly dispatched to the area and reported there was no rotation or tornado.

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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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