Siren History in Ford County

Ford County Outdoor Warning Sirens Tornado 3

During the Cold War period of the late 1940s and early 1950s the Federal Government had a program that functioned through the local Civil Defense agency to supply outdoor sirens for public warning in the event of an enemy attack. Sirens located in the central part of the United States were also used for outdoor warning in the event of a tornado. The sirens were equipped with two separate tones - one alerting citizens to an attack which alternated from high to low - and the other was an alert tone which was a single constant pitch. Most of the sirens acquired were Federal Thunderbolt models.

Ford County purchased their first two sirens in 1948 and 1949.

During the 1970s and 80s, a lot of the old Civil Defense programs shifted priority and many programs were discontinued and replaced.  The program of having “Fallout Shelters” is a good example of this change. As the programs changed, the priority of the sirens shifted into serving as an outdoor tornado alerting system.

By 1981, three or four additional sirens were purchased under a matching FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant at a cost of $21,277.00. These were Federal Sirens, however, they were of a newer model which still allow us to get parts and service.

In 1990, a radio and paging system was approved for Bucklin sirens. This came to completion as the result of a FEMA grant.

In 1992, five additional sirens were purchased at a cost of $33,000.00. The Federal cost share was $15,000.00 with Ford County paying $9,687.00 and the City of Dodge City paying the remaining $9,000.00. At about this time Dodge City donated the fire siren from the south second street fire station to Ford County. The siren was moved to the Ford County Jail and was included in the tornado alert system. This siren was new in 1948-1949. This was also the year that a new antenna was purchased and placed on the roof of the Government Center for some siren initiation.

A year later, in 1993, the county was reimbursed in excess of $14,000 from the Federal Government for new sirens purchased the prior year.

In 2000, a new siren was purchased at a cost of $10,000.00 and was paid for entirely by the county.

In 2001-2002, two more sirens were purchased at a cost of approximately $12,000.00 each with the county paying $14,000.00 and the City of Spearville paying the remaining 50% cost share. It should be noted that there are two old sirens (no longer in use) located at the current Spearville fire and EMS station of unknown origin and ownership. One was operated manually and could not be operated by radio control. The second was likely inoperable.

By 2005, an agreement was reached with Fort Dodge for their siren. The fort installed a new radio controller and this siren come onto county system. While Ford County triggers the siren, the siren itself is owned by Fort Dodge.

In 2007, two additional sirens were purchased by the county. One was a 2001-130 model w/ battery backup which replaced the Boot Hill siren which was became a parts donor for other sirens in the system. The second siren was a Federal Eclipse which was installed at the south edge of the Dodge City Community College campus and replaced an old Thunderbolt that was scrapped for parts.

In late 2007, an additional Federal 2001-130 Model with battery backup was added to the system in Bucklin by agreement. A second Federal 2001-130 model replaced the then current Bucklin siren located on the water tower. This was installed in 2009 next to Bucklin City Hall with the old inoperable one, scraped. The old siren on the water tower was disabled and left in place because of removal issues due to its location. The cost of these two new units was split evenly between the City of Bucklin and Ford County.

In 2008, there were 14 sirens located in the city of Dodge City and one each in Wilroads Gardens, Wright, Fort Dodge and Ford City. Three sirens in the City of Spearville, and two in the City of Bucklin. This then is a total of 23 sirens located in Ford County.

That same year, seven sirens in use were determined to be outdated Thunderbolt models of which replacement parts were no longer available or very scarce. All seven were located in the City of Dodge City. Two other sirens of an even older vintage and (unknown models) were also in the Dodge City system and needed to be replaced.   These sirens had to be activated through a direct telephone line.

In 2010, six sirens were installed in the City of Dodge City. The sirens had been updated and were triggered by a radio system - no longer by telephone. This advancement resulted in monthly savings for the County and offered improved performance and dependability.

By the next year, 2011, a new federal mandate caused Ford County to ‘narrowband’ their siren network to further enhance dependability. This upgrade cost just over $7,000.

In 2019, Ford County replaced six sirens and installed 3 new sites.  All twenty-four of the sirens except two in Ford County are the Federal 2001-130 sirens, those two are at Dodge City Community College and Fort Dodge. Of the twenty-two 2001-130 sirens all are battery operated with electrical back up with the exception of six which are powered by AC electricity only.

Ford County Emergency Management’s goal is upgrading the system to have more warning capabilities and follow the National Weather Service polygons for tornado warnings. This should enable us to not over warn residents that are not in harm’s way while alerting those who are to take shelter. We are also working towards updating the “electric only” sirens to also be backup battery compatible. Please stay tuned for further updates on enhancements to this countywide system.