Tyler, Minn., is a long way from New York City, but the small-town of 1,143 people has something in common with the Big Apple: Both have recently had to deal with major weather events.
Obviously, the destruction and devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is on a much wider scale than what Tyler experienced when a tornado leveled homes and businesses on July 1, 2011. But both disasters highlight the importance of emergency preparedness, whether you live in a high-rise in midtown Manhattan, or on a farm in Tyler.
Rural communities face unique challenges when dealing with emergency response and major weather events. It’s essential that small towns have the latest technology and equipment to keep residents safe during an emergency.
When the tornado struck Tyler, responders lost communication with the city’s old storm warning siren. Emergency personnel from Tyler and nearby communities that were coming to help with the response effort didn’t know if the siren was going off, why it was going off, or if it was functioning properly.
Tyler is one of five rural communities in Lincoln County, which is near the South Dakota State line. To ensure that residents remained as prepared as possible for future tornados or weather-related events, Lincoln County leaders decided to purchase and install new storm warning sirens in four of its five communities.
Through its Community Facilities program, USDA Rural Development selected the cities of Tyler, Lake Benton, Hendricks and Ivanhoe to receive $20,000 in grants and $15,000 in loans to replace their old sirens with new models that feature two-way digital communication and other features to make sure they will function properly when needed most.
“The USDA funding really helped with our ability to show preparedness,” said Jeanna Sommers, emergency management director for Lincoln County. “These new sirens are a major upgrade over the old ones.”
Sommers coordinated the application process for all four communities and worked closely with Megan Gernentz in Rural Development’s area office in Marshall, Minn. Having all four communities work collaboratively also made a major impact.
Storm sirens are a purchase that you hope never needs to be used. But it’s also one of the most important investments a community can make. If a storm ever hits Tyler – or any community in Lincoln County – again, the functionality of the sirens will be one less thing responders have to worry about.
To learn how your community can apply for assistance to receive emergency warning equipment click here.