The new Helotes outdoor warning siren is not new at all. The siren that is mounted on the Helotes Public Works building was a siren that was originally installed in the 1960s or 1970s when that building housed the Helotes Area Volunteer Fire Department. As late as the mid 1980s, the siren was used, in addition to pagers worn by the firefighters, to summon the volunteer fighters to the station. Typically, the first firefighter to arrive would flip the switch and the siren would sound until the rest of the “crew” would arrive and be ready to leave the station.
Through the years, the siren had fallen into disrepair until recently, we had it refurbished and reinstalled to serve as a part of the Helotes Emergency Management Plan. It is just one of several tools we used in the “Warning” section of the plan and it is a valuable asset that will be used when we receive notice of severe weather with a forecast of imminent danger to our citizens and property. The siren will also be use as a warning device for hazardous materials spills and other situations that might involve danger to the general public.
Outdoor warning sirens have been used for many decades in thousands of cities throughout Texas and the United States. They are used to alert citizens who are outdoors of an imminent danger or hazard and prompt them to seek shelter in a sturdy structure and once sheltered, to seek information using the radio and TV Emergency Alert System, NOAA Weather Radio, telephone alerting systems or apps, Reverse 911, or the ReadySouthTX app for their smartphones.
Our siren is ideally located in the city so that it can be heard outdoors at all of our schools, parks, and churches. Our protocol, similar to many small towns, is to test the siren daily at noon for one minute. If you hear the siren sound at any other time with a solid or constant tone for a three to five minute period, that will be the warning to immediately seek shelter. The siren will repeat at approximately ten (10) minute intervals until the warning period is over. The siren will be activated for:
- Tornado warnings for our immediate area or with tornado sightings.
- Threats of winds exceeding 60 mph expected to impact Helotes.
- Storms producing hail exceeding 1 inch in diameter.
If you hear the siren, please do not call 911 unless you have an emergency. Our dispatchers will be busy with calls. Instead, review the news sources listed above for more information.