At the last Idyllwild Fire Protection District (IFPD) commission meeting on Oct. 22, Chief Mark LaMont gave an update on the mountain emergency siren alert system from the position of the district.
LaMont reached out to Adam Mikels, inside sales representative for American Signal Corporation, for information on sirens. Mikels presented options, including the pros and cons of each, to LaMont in an email.
“I have been working with them to identify the best possible practice of alarm system use for a community such as ours,” LaMont told the commissioners.
“I don’t want to say we are slowing the alarm system down at all, but what we are trying to do is ensure that anything that we do here doesn’t need to be undone or redone because we didn’t research and study this deep enough,” LaMont said in response to concerns about timeframe. LaMont articulated that the district wants to “spend the community’s money wisely when we get there.”
LaMont sat down with members of the Mile High Radio Club and updated “about 200 items that will be required to extend WNKI. Now I know the question came up: What does that have to do with a siren for here?” LaMont said the goal is to work with the mountain top instead of Idyllwild doing its own thing. WNKI-AM 1610 is the emergency radio station for all the mountain communities managed by the Mile High Radio Club.
“County will receive the deal and cost breakdown,” added LaMont. “There’s $200,000 worth of equipment and materials that we need to stand up WNKI across the mountain plateau. That’s about the cost that it would take to expand that … and there are some question marks with how they would land those services and do the improvements in order to utilize the system as we laid it out.
“There are some ideal locations for all of these transmitters to be put into service. Most of them are county-owned properties. There are a couple better locations that are privately owned. The county would have to go into agreements on them to manage those.” LaMont said that he does not have the cost for the properties because it is unknown at this time.
How much will the sirens alone cost? Mikels wrote it is “hard to be exact, but I can give you some rough estimates to start with. Several factors can cause that to vary such as how it is decided to activate the siren, additional features, and if we are able to roof-mount the primary siren.”
The two estimates are $32,000 for a basic one-siren system and $76,000 for a deluxe two-siren system. Mikels thinks the price would “fall between them.” LaMont said that he has been working with American Signal Corporation to figure out how to best utilize the siren(s) in locations to reach the densest populations.
Commission Secretary Ralph Hoetger asked, “The reach of the siren is all theoretical at this point?” LaMont replied, “No, the reach of the siren is actually based on topographic challenges.”
Hoetger stated that it is theoretical because it hasn’t been stood up and tested. LaMont responded that it has on their modeling system, but that the district has not actually tried it.
“So, we do not know how far it reaches yet and if one siren will be adequate,” Hoetger said.
Riverside County Emergency Management Department (EMD) Senior Public Information Specialist Shane Reichardt told the newspaper “EMD is rewriting existing Homeland Security grants to include the siren project. The money would come from funds left over from other projects. Once that is completed, the project will still need to have engineering reviews and environmental studies before any work could begin. We are actively working on this project but there is no current timeline.”
Reichardt told the newspaper that Brian Tisdale is still the leader for EMD on the project. “We want to address this as big picture and it will take a little longer to do it properly and incorporate any concerns and choose the best system available.
“We [public agencies] are doing what we can to keep the community safe and get this accomplished as quickly as possible,” concluded Reichardt in a phone call.