After a mid-June storm flattened trees and knocked down power lines, Dunwoody city officials are taking a new look at installing sirens to warn residents of the approach of dangerous weather.

During the City Council’s meeting July 8, members expressed a range of opinions on the need for warning sirens in the city.

“This is one of the things we really, really need to do to protect our citizens,” said Councilman Denis Shortal, a long-time proponent of warning sirens.

“It’s like having a generator when the electricity goes out. You don’t use it very often, but when you do…. It’s a safety issue.”

Other council members said the devices would not have provided any additional warning during the June 14 storm that downed more than 30 trees and knocked out power for hours or days for some residents. Instead, they argued residents could be warned better by other types of devices, such as cellphone-based warnings or weather radios.

“If radios are the way to go and we’re hell-bent on spending money,” Mayor Mike Davis said, “and protecting everybody in the city, let’s buy them all radios.”

But relatively few use the warnings now available in Dunwoody. Police Chief Billy Grogan told the council that only 1,500 to 1,600 residents have registered for the Code Red warnings by phone.

A warning siren system that would cover the city of Dunwoody would likely cost $200,000 to $300,000, said Kimberly Greer, assistant to the city manager. In recent years, Dunwoody officials have pursued federal or state grants to pay for warning sirens, Greer said, but so far, “we have been unsuccessful.”

Shortal said that the city should budget the money to buy the sirens. “If we can’t budget it this year, I’d put it on the budget cycle for next year,” he said.

But Councilman Terry Nall said the city should continue to look for grants. “To budget for tornado sirens, at the moment, I remain unconvinced,” Nall said.

Several council members wanted to investigate the possibility of installing smaller warning systems similar to ones they said are used on ball fields or golf courses. Those systems, they said, warn people in open areas of potential lightning storms.

Councilwoman Lynn Deutsch said city officials shouldn’t let the recent storm influence their long-term decision. Instead, she said, they should get more information about the various warning systems.

“It’s not as easy as ‘Yes, they work,’ or ‘No, they don’t work,’ she said. “There’s a lot of gray there.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.