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Tornado siren back in operation after 30 years thanks to a caring community

The following press release comes from Cherokee County Emergency Management:

“Emergency Management operations have certainly changed over the years. But one thing that has remained consistent in our county is the willingness of neighbors to help each other during times of emergencies. As the season for severe weather approaches, an emergency siren that has lain dormant for over thirty years is now back in operation.

In the early 1900’s a siren was installed that would alert people in the community of a fire. The siren was located in the courthouse where it remained until the recent courthouse renovation. Located above the current Murphy Police Department, there was an apartment that a night fireman could stay in free of charge should the siren need to be activated during the night.

A contact switch was located on a pole behind the courthouse. In order to activate the switch someone had to push it to activate, and then let it sound, then push again to turn it off. One long sound cycle indicated that there was a fire in town. Two sound cycles indicated that there was a fire in East Murphy (which is approximately Hill Street to Brittain Street). Three sound cycles indicated that there was a fire in Bealtown. And four extended sound cycles indicated that there was a fire in Factory Town (Regal Road, Pallet Plants, Saw Mills and Bulk Plant). Because of the larger industrial building located in Factory Town, a fire in this area could be more devastating.

The emergency siren remained in operation until the early 1980’s. The emergency siren eventually became inoperable. Two employees from Murphy Power Board, Terry Hedden and Darrell Smith, were able to repair the emergency siren to become operable. In 1982 an attempt was made to install a new timer on the siren, however, when activated the motor on the siren burned. Smoke bellowed from the courthouse. Needless to say, the siren lay dormant and was eventually removed upon renovation and building of our courthouse.

When the siren was removed from the courthouse, Murphy Fire Department Chief Al Lovingood initiated the efforts to have the emergency siren reconstructed. Murphy Fire Department and Cherokee County Emergency Management collaborated efforts in order to pay for the siren reconstruction. Several volunteers helped with the siren reconstruction efforts. Under the guidance of Gary Westmoreland, Skip Weidner and the Tri County Community College welding class, the siren was re-fabricated. George Van Buskirk sandblasted the entire siren. Rose Truck Access provided the LineX frame that covers the siren. Murphy Power Board provided the utility pole, power and installation of the siren. The emergency siren is currently located above the Townson Rose Funeral Home. The emergency siren signal should be able to reach the western end of the Town of Murphy from this location should a emergency occur.

In Andrews, there is one tornado siren. This is currently the only tornado siren located in the county. Andrews Fire Department is in charge of the tornado siren. The department tests the siren every other week. The tornado siren in located at the old Andrews city hall. The siren was activated during the tornado we experienced in 2012. The main reason there are so few emergency sirens in the county is due to expense. A new tornado siren can cost approximately $20,000. Conversely, renovation to the old siren cost approximately $3,000.”

Please note: The Murphy siren will be tested quarterly (August and December), but if heard during other times, it means to take action.

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Posted in NC-Cherokee County, Regional News

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