The Kanawha Valley is preparing for the worst. The Kanawha/Putnam Emergency Planning Commission is using nearly $1 million in grant money to purchase 20 more state-of-the-art outdoor mod sirens to warn residents when danger is headed their way.

The sirens, on display at the Public Safety Expo taking place at the Charleston Civic Center, aren’t the old chemical plant sirens that residents are used to hearing.

Kanawha County Emergency Management Director Dale Petry says the mod sirens talk.

“They can actually give an audio message of, for example, ‘There’s been a chemical incident, HAZMAT related, on the interstate. Please tune to your local TV and radio stations for further information,’” Petry explained Thursday.

Kanawha County currently has four of those in place – including one each at West Virginia State University and the fire station on Corridor G, U.S. Route 119. Now with more funding available, Petry says they’re expanding their siren footprint. Twenty new mods will be in place by the end of the month, reaching from the eastern end of Kanawha County into Putnam County.

“If for some reason, something happens in Putnam County and they lose power and can’t set their sirens off, we can set them off from out here at our Metro 911 center,” Petry said. “If something happens in Kanawha County, Putnam County’s 911 center will be able to set ours off.”

The cost for each mod ranges from $25,000 to $30,000. But Petry says in this day and age when you can be dealing with anything from a gunman on a university campus to a derecho blowing through, the more information they can get out to the public while they’re outside, the better chance there won’t be any injuries or fatalities.

Petry says before they started updating their siren system only half of the old sirens were in working order, making warnings a spotty proposition at best. Petry says the new mods are easy to repair, reliable and well worth every penny.

The Public Safety Expo, which has more than 600 participants, will continue through Saturday.

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