The only local tornado warning Elizabethtown leaders could provide in the past was a firefighter with a loud speaker.
But now, the Bartholomew County community’s 500 residents will get their own tornado warning siren this spring.
The Bartholomew County Commissioners this week signed off on a $14,370 grant originally awarded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the siren.
The grant, administered through the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, is from allocations made in 2012 through FEMA’s Hazardous Mitigation Grant program.
Although the county approves, several state officials must still sign off on buying the siren before the money can be spent, said Dennis Moats, Bartholomew County emergency management director.
Those signatures are expected within three weeks, which will then enable the town to acquire the $19,160 early warning system, Moats said.
While the Elizabethtown community must pay $4,790 in the matching grant, much of that can be provided through in-kind contributions, Elizabethtown Town Council member Fred Barnett said.
This isn’t the first time Elizabethtown has acquired a tornado warning siren. Last spring, the town of Hope donated a warning system to the town, but it turned out to be incompatible with the equipment used by the county, Barnett said.
Concern about tornado preparedness has been one of Elizabethtown’s top concerns due to the number of children, disabled and elderly who reside there, he said.
The town has identified buildings with cellars and basements where residents could seek shelter during a tornado, Barnett said.
While applications for several grants for a variety of projects were submitted in 2012, the process of using a state agency to acquire federal funds for a tornado siren is time-consuming, he said.
“There must be five busloads of lawyers between the state level and the federal level,” Barnett said. “The devil is in the details, and that’s what takes these things so long.”
But the grant-writing process has been paying off.
Elizabethtown will receive more than $60,000 in state and private grants for a variety of small projects, ranging from a study of how to improve stormwater drainage to acquiring equipment for a children’s playground.
Although tornado sirens= will soon be up and running in Elizabethtown, Moats also is hopeful to get funding for sirens in Taylorsville, which has about 900 residents.
While only incorporated small towns can apply for the FEMA grant themselves, it’s still possible for Taylorsville to receive funding, Moats said.
“It would first take a strong community effort (in Taylorsville), working with both the county commissioners and the German Township Fire Department,” Moats said. “But it’s doable. Since Taylorsville is part of Bartholomew County, they could ask the county to apply on their behalf.”