The severe-weather-alert system serving Pickerington and Violet Township has been enhanced in recent years, but emergency officials say residents still should take their own safety measures.

The severe-weather-alert system serving Pickerington and Violet Township has been enhanced in recent years, but emergency officials say residents still should take their own safety measures.

Over the past two years, Violet Township and the city of Pickerington have spent about $28,000 to purchase and upgrade seven used severe-weather-alert sirens.

The equipment, which Fairfield County acquired from Lake County officials for about one-fifth of the cost of new sirens, allowed the Violet Township Fire Department to replace the lone siren at Fire Station 591 on Lockville Road and add six refurbished sirens in areas that previously had none.

Within a month, installation of another siren is expected near Refugee and Steeplechase roads.

"I would say we've got about 80 percent of the population covered by our outdoor warning system," Violet Township fire Chief John Eisel said.

Although Eisel and other area emergency-response officials say the system is a significant improvement to public safety, they caution residents not to develop a false sense of security. They said the sirens are designed only to warn people who are outside their homes and recommend that residents take steps to protect themselves.

"It's only part of the warning system," said Jon Kochis, director of the Fairfield County Emergency Management Agency. "We really encourage people to get severe-weather radios to keep inside their homes."

Such radios are sold at many electronics stores, and the Violet Township Fire Department sells them at cost.

"The basic model is $45, and there's one with an alarm clock and AM/FM radio that's $55," Eisel said. "The (outdoor) alert system was never designed to wake you up or alert you if you're inside your home. We're huge advocates of having weather radios inside your home."

The Fairfield County Sheriff's Office activates the radios and the sirens when the National Weather Service issues a severe weather warning.

Countywide, 45 weather-alert sirens are in operation. About 20 of them were installed in the past two years.

Kochis said the county will continue to seek grants to purchase additional sirens but likely won't be able to buy many on its own. He said most new sirens cost more than $16,000 each.

"It's kind of difficult for most townships and villages to afford that," Kochis said. "We are covered right now in the higher-populated areas."

Bill Yaple, Violet Township's director of operations, said five additional sirens likely would be needed to provide 100-percent coverage for the outdoor system. Because of budget constraints, he said, it's unclear when or if those units might be purchased.

"If we've got to buy them new, we're looking at another $20,000 to $25,000 apiece to buy and install them," he said.

Despite its limitations, Pickerington officials say they are pleased with the recent expansion of the alert system.

Mayor Mitch O'Brien said it has been a good investment that significantly has improved local safety.

"I think it's terrific," he said. "Violet Township has led the effort here, and it is for the benefit of all city residents."