Westlake residents unhappy with city's severe weather text alerts, push for tornado sirens

WESTLAKE, Ohio - The city of Westlake is reconsidering how it alerts residents to potential tornados after some of them are demanding that outdoor sirens be installed.

"The siren catches your attention right away," said Cecelia Baker, a Westlake resident who advocated for sirens before city council last week.

But the city disagrees and has used a cell phone text message alert for severe weather for the past five years.

"They (sirens) are hard to hear indoors depending on your surroundings, so if your house is closed up or you have your air conditioning on, unless you're in close proximity of the siren, you may not hear it," said Larry Surber, assistant director of purchasing for the city of Westlake.

Westlake uses a text message alert system called Nixle. It's free, but anyone interested in receiving digital alerts must sign up and subscribe on Nixle's website . You may also opt to receive weather alert emails.

But Nixle, which costs the city about $1,500 annually, doesn't do Mary Levtzow and her family many favors.

"We don't have cell phones. We don't plan to have cell phones. I don't need a cell phone," said Levtzow, a Westlake resident.

Baker said she wasn't aware of any text message alert system. For people like Levtzow and Baker, Surber said there are alternatives.

"If there is bad weather, we can watch the news and stay tuned that way," he said. "Or we suggest a weather radio."

Surber said all weather warning options are on the table since some Westlake residents started putting pressure on the city following the potential for a major storm earlier this month.

 "You as an individual do everything you can to protect yourself, but what is the city doing to do the same thing for all?" Baker said.

Surber said the sirens would cost the city about $130,000, but money is not a factor in the decision.

"Effectiveness has always been the main key," he added.

Various tornado warning options will be presented to the mayor in the next few weeks, according to Surber.

A majority of the 59 communities in Cuyahoga County do not have sirens.  The 21 communities that do are as follows:

Bedford Heights
Brook Park
Chagrin Falls
Cuyahoga Heights
Garfield Heights
Highland heights
Maple Heights
Mayfield Village
Seven Hills
Valley View
Walton Hills
Warrensville Heights

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