Siren problems following leak in South Charleston, WV - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Siren system doesn't work on first try following chlorine incident in South Charleston, WV

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Sign on entrance to South Charleston Middle School Wednesday Sign on entrance to South Charleston Middle School Wednesday

Following a leak at Clearon in South Charleston,WV many residents there and in surrounding communities had questions about how the incident was handled. Some said they weren't adequately notified. Others questioned the delay in issuing a shelter in place.

Sandy Weddington said she was on her way to work in South Charleston when she heard on the radio that she should shelter in place. She immediately called her husband.

"She didn't know where to go she didn't know what to do," Ron Weddington said.

She had already driven into South Charleston by the time she got the warning.

"I would like for them, when something like that happens... to stop traffic or something," Sandy Weddington said. "I think that would have been helpful because I just came in. If I hadn't have heard it on the radio I wouldn't have known."

Sandy said she wondered what would have happened if the situation would have been more dangerous.

"I probably wouldn't be here doing this interview with you," Sandy Weddington said.

Deputy Emergency Manager for Kanawha County, C.W. Sigman said the response went well for the most part, but there is room to improve.

"We have been preaching shelter in place for many many years in the Kanawha Valley," Sigman said."We still have confusion because, contrary to popular belief, we don't do it very often."

The decision to shelter in place came almost an hour after the incident. That prompted questions for some residents in the affected area. Sigman said that decision was up to South Charleston's fire chief. He explained that based on initial observations a shelter in place didn't seem necessary. Then crews in other areas said they smelled chlorine drifting west. At that point the decision was made to let people know to go inside as a precaution.

But once the decision was made to sound the sirens there was a problem. The alarms didn't sound on the first try.

"When they went to activate the sirens Wednesday they had to go to another console and there was a little slowness in the system," Sigman said. "They are working on that glitch right now."

Sigman said people in Belle and Malden, who were not in the shelter in place zone, heard extra sirens. That created some confusion there. Others said they heard sirens and presumed it was the monthly test that happens the fourth Wednesday of every month at noon.

"We always have some area that we did not get through to or someone to let them know what was going on," Sigman said. "Luckily this one was not a big deal. I don't want to minimize it. The potential was there. Luckily no one got hurt. Next time we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing."

Sigman said things went much smoother than they have in years past. They used new technology like Swiftreach to call people's phones. He said that notification process took about 11 minutes after it was initiated. They also used Facebook and Twitter and sent alerts to the media.

He said things could have gone better. 

"I think we need to tweak our system. We are meeting over the technical issues. The director has asked that some actions be taken to improve the system as we always do."

Sigman said the plant and firefighters did an excellent job responding to the incident. There will be a meeting in the days ahead with fire officials and city leaders in South Charleston and representatives from Clearon to work on improvements.

Some member of the community questioned why the roadways remained open during the incident. Sigman said shutting them down would have done more harm than good in that situation.

Sigman said it is always a good idea learn in advance how to properly shelter in place, instead of waiting for an emergency. He said if you need specific instructions you can call his office at 304-357-0966. You can also follow the links provided for more information to make certain your family is prepared.

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