An emergency siren will soon warn the neighborhoods below the Museum Fire burn scar of imminent flooding.
The Coconino County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of emergency notification sirens during its meeting Tuesday as part of the continued response to the repeated flooding of the 2019 Museum Fire burn scar that engulfed homes, businesses and city streets during the 2021 monsoon season.
The siren will serve as an additional warning for those living in the Flagstaff neighborhoods of Paradise, Grandview and Sunnyside, as well as the Mt. Elden Estates and Lockett Ranches neighborhoods in the county.
Currently, Coconino County Emergency Management uses the Rave Mobility Emergency Notification System (ENS) to alert residents of an emergency. These alerts can be sent through text messages and email, and are posted on social media. This method was utilized during the 2021 flooding of the burn scar.
The addition of an audible siren will augment the current system and bridge any possible gaps. Supervisor Patrice Horstman, who represents areas impacted by flooding, said it’s especially beneficial to those who may not have their cellphone with them, specifically children.
People are also reading…
“I think this is, in fact, an important tool for the health and safety -- especially for those that live in the Museum Fire flood area,” Horstman said.
Supervisor Jeronimo Vasquez said the need for sirens was first brought to his attention last summer. The District 2 supervisor represents much of the area most impacted by flooding below the Museum Fire scar, overwhelming storm drains and frustrating residents. It’s likely an inevitable part of those neighborhoods now with the flooding expected to continue in the coming years as mitigation efforts will take some time to complete.
The quickly moving floodwaters also have the potential to be incredibly dangerous due to the large amount of debris and sediment.
“We know we have the potential for future floods and that isn’t going away anytime soon,” Vasquez said. “This is something we need for the safety of our community.”
The project is expected to cost an estimated $171,518, according to a quote included in county documents The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management will pay 75% of the cost using funds set aside by the 2021 legislature.
The remaining balance — approximately $42,800 — will be split between the County Flood Control District budget and the City of Flagstaff.
Deputy County Manager and Public Works Director Lucinda Andreani explained that the siren works with the current system, RAVE. The integration should prevent any missteps between the systems and refrain from creating any additional steps in the already tight notification process where seconds can make a significant difference.
A similar system is already in place in the Slide Fire burn scar in Oak Creek Canyon.
The addition of the sirens won’t impact the existing monitoring process and threshold used to determine when a warning should be issued, according to Emergency Management Director Wes Dison. He added that the team is “judicious” when determining how to use the system, referencing a 2018 incident during which a false missile alert was mistakenly issued in Hawaii.
The warning system will offer 13 different siren sounds and a voice feature that will play the details of the emergency alert. County officials will work with the vendor, Alertus, in the coming weeks to determine the number of sirens needed and the exact placement.
The goal is to have the sirens fully installed and operational ahead of the 2022 monsoon season, Andreani said.
Reporter Bree Burkitt can be reached at 928-556-2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org.