ROBERT PIERCE • Leader & Times
Seward County has applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program through the Kansas Division of Emergency Management as a sub-applicant.
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal actions must be reviewed and evaluated for feasible alternatives and for social, economic, historic, environmental, legal and safety considerations.
Under executive orders, FEMA is required to consider alternatives and to provide a public notice of any proposed actions in or affecting floodplains or wetlands.
Under another executive order, FEMA is likewise required to provide the opportunity for public participation in the planning process and to consider potential impacts to minority and low-income populations.
The funding Seward County is applying for will be for the purchase of new tornado sirens.
“We’ll be installing four new sirens to better serve the residents of Liberal,” Emergency Management Director Greg Standard said at last week’s county commission meeting.
This news comes a few months after concerns were addressed about current sirens not working properly during a storm that hit Liberal in mid-June.
Standard reviewed the purpose of sirens with the commission, the in-person audience and those watching on the county’s livestream.
“Tornado sirens are outdoor warning devices,” he said. “These sirens are used to alert individuals who are outdoors of rapidly approaching severe weather. When you hear the sirens, immediately move indoor to a safe room, basement or a small interior room away from windows.”
The new sirens will be placed in four locations:
• On the south side of Tobias Park;
• At 11222 Highway 54;
• On the northeast corner of the Walnut Street and Lincoln Avenue intersection; and
• At 1491 East Eighth Street.
None of the proposed locations are located within or adjacent to wetlands per review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wetlands Inventory.
Under the proposal, the county would purchase and install four outdoor warning sirens and poles on easements throughout the county. To install the pole, 7.5 feet deep holes with a radius of no more than three feet would be dug.
The sirens would be powered utilizing existing nearby electrical lines and will be linked to the county’s siren system, allowing for both remote and manual activation.
There are two alternatives being considered with the project, the first of which is to take no actions. This alternative keeps the residents of and any visitors to Seward County at risk during dangerous weather conditions.
“Many people in the community do not have weather radios or severe weather alert cell phone apps to provide them early waring of dangerous weather conditions, and the ‘no action’ alternative does not allow for broader early warning,” a public notice said.
The second alternative is for the use of mobile sirens.
“Seward County could, and has in the past, used vehicle mounted coordinated with the Seward County Emergency Dispatch to issue notifications and direct residents to shelter in place,” the public notice said. “This alternative places county personnel at high risk due to severe weather exposure and delays the delivery of warning while the response vehicles are dispatched.”
The public notice was the final one regarding the action funded by the FEMA program. Comments are requested through Oct. 3 on the project.
“If you have input, questions or comments, please let us know,” Standard said. “This has been published in the Leader & Times. It is on the Seward County Web page, and I think we now have it also on Facebook. There are instructions on how to send your comments, hopefully favorable, to FEMA directly. However, if that’s difficult and you’d like to send them to administrative offices here or my office that would also be welcomely received. All comments will be passed on to FEMA from those locations.”
Interested persons may also submit comments and questions in writing by contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Region 7, 11224 Holmes Road, Kansas City, MO 64131.
Written comments should be sent with the “KS-DR-4640-HMGP-0004; Seward County Sirens Floodplain Comments” subject line as well.