Residents Rip New Tornado Sirens

Residents want old warning sirens back that can be heard indoors and outdoors after heavy storms roll through area on Sunday.

Oak Lawn's new state-of-the-art tornado sirens are designed to only be heard outdoors.
Oak Lawn's new state-of-the-art tornado sirens are designed to only be heard outdoors.

The reviews are in of the village’s new tornado siren system after it underwent its first big test on Sunday when heavy storms rolled through the area: it blows.

It seems that Oak Lawn residents, being the traditionalists that they are, prefer the old civil defense siren system with its rising and falling wail that signaled a nuclear attack from the Red Menace.

This new state-of-the-art system, purchased with $120,000 of grant money last year, replaced the village’s Red Menace-sounding, 25-year-old tornado sirens. The replacement system was touted as offering better sound coverage and voice capabilities that can relay warning messages in four different languages: English, Spanish, Polish and Arabic.

Not only could the system be used to warn residents of impending weather events, it can also be employed during chemical spills and terrorist attacks.

When the new tornado sirens were being installed and tested over the summer, Patch invariably fielded panicky messages from residents worried about the voices they heard blaring through their neighborhood on our Facebook page. Usually this happened at 10 a.m. the first Tuesday of the month when Illinois municipalities test their civil warning systems.

According to village officials, the new system is designed to be heard outside by people who aren’t near a radio, so if you’re at an Oak Lawn or Westside Baseball game and the sirens go off, you can take shelter.

Since it’s been about 30 years when I last walked around with a transistor radio glued to my ear, I guess I don’t need my iPhone anymore.

This new system is not designed to be heard inside the house or other buildings, which explains why a lot of readers complained of not being able to hear the sirens or the warning messages in four different languages when they went off early Sunday afternoon.

A reader posted on the Oak Lawn Patch Facebook page that she had to open her door so she could hear the voice warnings, only to complain that the voices were too garbled and muffled to hear over the wind.

Fortunately, I had my windows open.

At last week’s village board meeting, it was announced that Oak Lawn was partnering with Walgreens and Advocate Christ Medical Center to offer coupons that would enable residents to purchase discounted weather radios to be used indoors in tandem with the new fangled siren system.

The coupons will be made available through the six district trustees from Dec. 2 through Dec. 6. After Dec. 7, which ironically is Pearl Harbor Day, residents can pick up the weather radio coupons at the Walgreens at 95th Street and Cicero Avenue.

As village officials continue to fine-tune the new tornado sirens, they may want to pay heed to this helpful feedback from the taxpayers of Oak Lawn:

MaryPat Hofer -- "Used to be able to hear the old sirens with windows closed."

Margaret Brindl-Maal -- "Can't hear the new system with the windows open. I live a block from it too. Go back to the old sirens."

Janet Osterloh  -- "Right, open the windows. In November. Gimme the old tornado siren. At least you knew what that was. Can't hear or understand this one."

Shannon Abrham -- "So we can hear the mumbled voices that you cant understand, the siren isnt even as loud anymore."

Kevin Ford -- "I'm putting my horn next to my ear, in case the quietest, most jumbled warning siren in the history of warning sirens goes off. Oh, that'll be remedied by the discount weather radios we all buy."

Ed Tierney -- "We should all just get weather radios. Those sirens are louder than the new system."

Tammy Jennings -- "I live 5 houses from village hall and even with windows open I can't hear it. I rely on the Weather Channel not my village."

Andrew Aguinaga -- "5 different languages? How about FREAKING ENGLISH. God, I'm glad I left Oak Lawn. Freaking criminal Blagojevich, illegal safe haven state. This crap right here makes me proud to say I'm an EX resident of the communist state of Illinois, no longer part of its criminal ways. You disgust me Illinois."

Cindy Estrada Tori -- "Did it give the warning already because i didnt hear nothing??"

Valerie Girote Ross -- "A siren should be an international warning. Why should it even say more than seek shelter and loudly let off the siren. I thought we were being attacked by another country the first time I heard it. So ridiculous."

Becky Staszak -- "I HATE the new one... It's creepy, incoherent, nor is it loud enough. I can't hear it with the windows open or closed! Bring back the old one already!! It worked much better! So dumb!"

Amal Ramadan -- "We live near one but couldn't understand it..not in English nor in Arabic…"

Justin Marcinkowski -- "Yeah a tornado is coming. Open up your windows so you can hear someone tell it in a language you don't understand.....ass clowns."

Tom Palka -- "The wind isn't the only thing that blows in Oak Lawn."

Valeri Newton Jeziorczak -- "I did hear the initial siren and then it went into the talking part. I had to open my window and give it my full attention to hear the words. I was able to hear it but if the tornado did come I would have probably been blown away as I had to sit by the window to listen."

Megan McNerney -- "The voices remind me of Hunger Games. Get rid of it."

Lisa PepsiGirl -- "I have called multiple times about the new tornado siren. I have been informed we are not suppose to be able to hear the sirens inside the house. The only reason I heard them today was because I opened my front door to look outside. Is there going to be anything done about this situation? It seems this is a problem that is affecting all of Oak Lawn residents. I never had a problem hearing the old sirens with all my windows and doors shut."

Mickey November 18, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Wacky times...it is indeed true and I just downloaded Audicity software to my computer so I can save the voice message forever.
Mickey November 18, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Colleen...you may want to reread my statements. I did not talk over the Mayor. She talked over me.
Colleen November 18, 2013 at 03:16 PM
Mickey, you may want to reread my post. Just saying "don't talk over me" to anyone is disrespectful. Also curious as to what you thought you would accomplish with your phone call? A new system? The resignation of all you perceive to be involved? Everyone has an opinion and that's what forums like this are important. However, there were people that either heard the siren, were contacted by phone or were prepared in some other way. It is clear that you didn't hear or see apparent weather problems. Don't speak for the rest of us. It is not unlawful for the mayor to he checking out this online forum. She used it to voice her opinion prior to her mayoral run. It may be me, but it sounds like you are using this storm to run your own agenda? Repeated phone calls demanding to speak to the mayor when there could be no way to resolve the issue. What were you hoping for?
Pat F November 18, 2013 at 03:22 PM
This alarm is supposed to be Loud to get your attention as a warning..These aren't! These alarms are made to inform everyone in their language?? This is America where We Speak English! Maybe if they didn't waste technology on making it for Non-English speaking people they would have concentrated on the siren's volume!! I believe this is just another government boondoggle! Take this new warning system and put it in the pile with Obamacare, Ventra Cards, and all the other gimmicks the politicians come up with! Put the old Sirens back up and we will be happy!!
Linda Gough November 18, 2013 at 03:28 PM
While I will admit you could hear the "old" siren system very well indoors or outdoors - they were sometimes obnoxiously loud. I know they are to "warn" residents but sometimes they actually "hurt" my ears. And my question is this: Why is this village in such an uproar about the "tornado" siren. I received a "flash flood" warning on the house phone from the village and I also received another alert (4 of them actually) of flash flood, tornado watch, high wind warning and one other that I can't recall at this moment in time on my cell phone. I knew full well that "impending weather" was at the forefront and heading my way......... And how many of you that have posted a complaint above have "disregarded" said siren in the past? Maybe because the sun was shining, maybe it didn't "look" threatening - you've all done it and we ALL know you have. I took whatever precautions needed to be taken when I was alerted of the weather front coming this way........So the mayor is passing the buck - so is Obama - it seems to be a "learned trait" in the political arena these days. As the mayor of this village she needs to make her voice heard and by that I mean she needs to respond to villagers who call and request a conversation with her. No one is THAT busy.......If you get no results, let her take your comments down and then be sure you arrive at the NEXT BOARD meeting and let your voice be heard loud and clear.......
Mickey November 18, 2013 at 03:29 PM
Colleen, I called once. And I have the right to call the Mayor with my concerns. And trying to assign "an agenda" label to this situation won't work. That is a tactic used in defense. I wanted the Mayor to realize that this siren does not work. And that by removing a working siren and replacing it with one that does not do half of what the other did and then telling taxpayers to take more money out of their pockets to buy a weather radio in an attempt to have notification of a storm is not good. The village now knows from yesterday's events and today's comments that the new siren does not fully replace what the old siren did. The old siren was not broke. And as I stated before, god forbid we should have another storm with a loss of life...well are we villagers responsible? We are potentially responsible for the actions on other situations (all administrations) I just don't want to responsible for another. Maybe if you would stop being immediately defensive and truly read what is being said by myself and others you will see this. This immediate defensive reaction by so many, the Mayor included as witnessed by my phone conversation with her, is just digging a hole we will never get out of. And when I say the Mayor owns it at this time.... I mean she owns it because she knows now this doesn't work. And the semi hopeful fix of the coupons is an indicator of that too. Why are those radios now being made available 8 months after the new system was put in and well after traditional tornado season? It's a semi fix. But not a full fix. Bring back the old sirens. That is all.
Omar November 18, 2013 at 03:37 PM
Here's an idea... Instead of having a system that talks to you in 4 different languages, let's blast out a loud alarming sound that pretty much tells everyone regardless of language that they're in danger and should seek shelter. Oh wait... that's what we had before isn't it? Maybe we should also change car and home alarms and have them politely tell would be robbers that they should just go away...in 4 different languages.
john artis November 18, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Luther stop using my quotes as your own I know you are used to other people writing your stuff but this is a little crazy!!
john artis November 18, 2013 at 04:57 PM
OlG I used the term calling those two trustees as sarcasm you know what that is don't you?? If some people are going to get political about this issue I thought I would show the hypocrisy of this since that flows freely on most of the posters to these stories
OakLawnGuy November 18, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Use your sarcasm font next time, champ!
Luther November 18, 2013 at 05:13 PM
The term would be words, not quotes. I thought I would show the hypocrisy of some of your posts. john,as far as other people writing my stuff,I believe we are back to that pot and kettle thing.
Rich November 18, 2013 at 05:23 PM
Mickey - Take a chill pill. I know this is the biggest thing in your life right now, but you are double posting, rambling on, accusing people of being the mayor, and pretty much making a fool of yourself. A couple things mixed in with saving phone messages and hysteria you said are true. It's a problem and good for you that you brought it to the mayors attention. Lets give our mayor, board of trustees, and village manager a chance to address it before we storm city hall { pardon the pun }.
Glen Kato November 18, 2013 at 05:31 PM
I got a phone call from the Village and a text message on my phone. My emergency radio also gave great weather information. I forgot to mention TV. I think I got the idea to take shelter.
Jill Johnson November 18, 2013 at 05:50 PM
For those of you who said you got a text on your phone alerting you about the storm, who sent you those texts? How can I sign up for something like that?
andy skoundrianos November 18, 2013 at 05:59 PM
I think you can sign up on the villages website
andy skoundrianos November 18, 2013 at 06:03 PM
I received a text and 3 calls from the village alerting me about the storm I did sign up for the everbridge system and I also heard the siren but I know some others did not Thank God there was not a tornado nor any fatalities in Oak Lawn
Frank S. November 18, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Stop a minute and think about the fact that there was only death in the town of Washington yesterday. This is due to the SIREN alerting the population of an imminent danger. Just think of how many more would have died or been injured if all they heard were voices of sort.
Jerry Ryan November 18, 2013 at 07:37 PM
People need to know that tornado/warning sirens are NOT designed to alert people inside. They are designed for OUTDOOR warning. That's why people are supposed to have weather radios. If you check out any manufacturers site, (ie: Federal Signal ) it clearly says that they are for outdoor warning. After 20 years in Emergency Management, I can tell you that you can't rely on sirens. There have been many instances where sirens get set off when they shouldn't, because the wrong information is given to dispatch. I can, however, agree that the newer systems that use traditional speakers and electronically generated tones, aren't as effective as the older, mechanical sirens. Unfortunately, some leaders get sold something claiming to be the next best thing and it's not the same.
Mike Ruane November 18, 2013 at 08:49 PM
I understand the new system is geared for people outdoors, but when I heard voices, I immediately opened my door to hear what was being said. By that time it was in Spanish. Since there's not much we can do to change the system, maybe they can stagger English language between the foreign languages since the great majority of people here in Oak Lawn speak English. If there was a threat non weather related, people indoors would need to open a window or door to hear the message. Since English was broadcasted first, the great majority of the village would have no idea what is going on (person with a gun running around 99th street, etc).
Ed November 18, 2013 at 09:56 PM
Who got their palm greased for this overpriced piece of crap?
Joe Kocur November 18, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Ed- finally somebody figured out how this happened . Ed hit the nail on the head. All this was about is somebody split the cash a few ways!! Plain and simple. Forget about safety money first . Evergreen parks loud siren went off and it worked great! Put the old one back up and forget about the other languages! Tuff sh-t to those who don't know English. Take a hike if they don't like it
anthony November 19, 2013 at 01:30 AM
Like always a few guys seen this coming ..I do not know the gentleman who started this thread on an Outdoor Warning Systems enthusiasts website , but it certainly seems relevant.. The question should be where did the old sirens go? Who turns down 1k for and old sirens ? Why would they incinerate old sirens .. Who has the old sirens now? Crated up to be resold elsewhere? https://airraidsirens.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=13981
anthony November 19, 2013 at 01:41 AM
The gentle posters are missing the point The old system was what 1992 The new system is meant to last 30 years .. 30 years from now who do you expect will be around here... Wonder if the Indians knew how many palefaces were coming or if those who were bilked or conned ever thought wait this is to good to be true...
tech 5 November 19, 2013 at 09:03 AM
The siren worked just fine.Thank you CICAGO RIDGE, PALOS, HICKORY HILLS
Jasken Park November 19, 2013 at 09:31 AM
Oak Lawn needs the old air raid sirens back. They worked. You could always hear them inside and they spoke a universal, unmistakable language. We had many killed on April 21, 1967, and with a lesson like that, we don't deserve the kind of crap we have now. Spare me manufacturers specs and design intent. We all know the old ones worked.
OakLawnGuy November 19, 2013 at 10:03 AM
Colleen November 19, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Thanks, OLG for posting. It is now clear that there is no way to go back to the old sirens. Period. It seems that these sirens will be the norm for other communities when they have theirs replaced. It disturbs me that only 10% have signed up for Everbridge. I don't like the new sirens either but I realize that to depend on just a siren is foolish. I also disagree with Kevin in the article. The alerts came to my home and cell and I had several discussions with friends and neighbors prior to the storm actually hitting. Plenty of time to prepare.
Mickey November 19, 2013 at 11:54 AM
if they can tweak the system as referenced in the article then I bet they can remove the spoken commands, lengthen the alarm (they already said they will do this) and make it louder and get us back to as close to what we had before (with new equipment) That would be wonderful. Some things don't need to change. Yes equipment updates but that siren scream is a language all its own.
DanF November 19, 2013 at 12:37 PM
It is a digital system so changes should be easy. Remove the spoken languages or loop English more. Raise the volume. Let the siren sound for a longer period. Simple and easy fixes. Lucky nobody had to die in a tragic event for us as residents to figure out the weak points of the new system.
Linda Gough November 19, 2013 at 02:49 PM
To Jill Johnson - I believe the "alerts" I received were from my phone carrier - Verizon. I will double check on that but I received an alert on my home phone from the village about a "flash flood" warning...... You may want to search through the various categories in your cell phone; if you don't find what you're looking for - then try calling your cell phone provider. I'm sure they can "help" you set them up.....


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