Emergency Management Concerns in Butler Co. - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Emergency Management Concerns in Butler Co.

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When will all the tornado sirens start working, and who should fire them up when severe weather hits Butler County?

Two big questions people in Butler County say they want answers to.

Heartland News went looking for answers to these issues at the heart of public safety to find out who's working to keep you safe, and if those people are working together.

"We've had our fair share of federal disasters, that's for sure," said Rick Sliger, Emergency Management Director.

 It was no surprise you called our newsroom wanting to know what was wrong with the siren in the northern part of the county. Sliger showed us pictures of what looks like a lightning strike.

"We are waiting on some parts to fix it, so we are working as fast as we can but it could be mid-February. So, we encourage all the people who live in the area to pay closer attention to the television and radio reports, or sign up for text message alerts to stay informed," said Sliger. "We are doing everything within procedure to get that siren up as soon as soon possible."

From there, some say it may actually be the procedure for sounding that siren and others in the county and the city that needs to be adjusted.

"There's room for improvement," said Sliger.

Sliger is the man in charge of making the call to sound the sirens in case of a tornado.

"As of right now I have to activate all the county sirens right here and then call the city," said Sliger, pointing out a control box in his officer.

There is also a backup system in the Sheriff's Office, but according to county proto cal, Sliger has to be the man to give the word to activate the sirens. The extra step of getting hold of Sliger is something that concerns sheriff's deputies when seconds matter.

"It absolutely concerns me," said Lt. Brian Evans. "That step needs to be eliminated."

Lt. Evans showed our crew the control box in the Sheriff's Office with a note taped to it describing instructions to wait for Sliger's ok, and what to do following.

"Just the other day when we had severe weather one of the deputies asked what we do if we can't get in touch with Sliger and we believe there's a tornado. I told him to sound them. These situations are critical."  

Lt. Evans says there are plenty of qualified people to help responders make the call to sound the sirens. He says the sheriff's department relies on several agencies, including a group of trained storm spotters that work in conjunction with Crawford Security.

Craig Meador says the group is trained yearly through the National Weather Service.

"We report directly to the National Weather Service out of Paducah," said Meador. "They trust our information," he said as he looked over radar and radio equipment used for storm tracking in his home office.

"The sheriff's office, police, and fire departments all call us and ask us what's going on when they know weather is in the area," said Meador.

"We feel there is a need for spotters like us out there," said Jim Hager. "This is a big county and we believe in public safety. We take this job seriously."

Yet, we also discovered though this group is volunteer, Sliger says when he came into the position he let them go.

"They used to work for me," said Sliger. "To be honest I got rid of them several years ago they were wreck lace and undisciplined. But that doesn't mean what they do isn't valuable. It was just a liability the county couldn't bear."

Sliger went on to say the group is well-trained and important to the county.

The spotters have never made a penny for the eyes they provide.

"We all need to be working together," said Hager.

There is one thing everyone agrees on. It's time to streamline procedures and Sliger says that's his next priority.

"I think it ought to be a standard policy that anytime we have a tornado warning issued through the National Weather Service we set off the sirens without waiting for me to make a call," said Sliger.

Sliger says he plans to get the ball rolling to make more efficient procedures and keep groups working together.

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