SAN ANGELO, Texas — San Angelo resident Eric Robbins was asleep on the early morning of August 22, when a severe thunderstorm rolled through the Concho Valley, damaging dozens of buildings in its wake and causing more than 20,000 people to lose power.
In past years, sirens would've alerted residents throughout the city to seek shelter before the storm rolled through, but the city removed the sirens last year and started alerting citizens via text messages and virtual alerts instead. This system, according to people like Robbins, doesn't always work.
"I didn't receive a notification from the city or anything. I received a notification from an app that I use to look at the radar, and only got that notification after it had started," he said.
City of San Angelo fire chief Brian Dunn said the city got rid of the sirens because they're outdated, expensive to repair, and often caused more confusion than they were worth.
"To replace the entire siren warning system for the City of San Angelo, was between $500-700,000, for an antiquated system that, most people, when it went off, they didn't know if it was a tornado warning, hail larger than a quarter in diameter, or sustained winds in excess of 58 mph," Dunn said.
Robbins made a post on Facebook calling for fellow San Angelo residents to urge the city to bring back sirens. The post has been shared 380 times so far. In the comment section, many other members of the community claim to have not received alerts prior to Saturday's storm.
"I’d rather not have the city wait and say, ‘oh, maybe we could have used those sirens’ before the system fails again and causes people their lives. Obviously, with weather and stuff, you can’t predict what’s going to happen, but you can give them that chance. Have a chance of seeking shelter, and doing whatever they have to do to escape damage," he said.
Robbins said he doesn't think the city should do away with the virtual alert system completely but instead should use both sirens and virtual alerts.
"I'm not saying to completely ditch the new system that they have, but not to put their entire trust into that new system that's untested, has failed before… to at least have the backup as a fail-safe. They ditched one system and solely put their faith in another system," he said.
Robbins said he contacted the city clerk on Monday morning and will be calling various city councilmembers to at least get them to put sirens on their city council meeting agenda. He said if they turn him down, he will start a petition for other members of the community to sign until city councilmembers put it on their agenda.