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NEW SIRENS TO SOUND THE ALARM

September will be emergency preparedness month in Tooele County with local officials planning tests of a new warning siren system, mock emergency drills and a full-scale evacuation in Stockton.

Most of the activity is tied to the Department of Defense's Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, known among emergency response officials as CSEPP.The intent of CSEPP is to prepare the county to respond in the event of a chemical weapons mishap at Tooele Army Depot, which is home to 42 percent of the nation's chemical weapons stockpile.

An incineration plant designed to burn the aging chemical weapons stockpile is in the final construction stages. The Army plans to begin incinerating chemical weapons rockets, mortars, artillery shells and bulk storage as early as February.

County emergency management spokesman Myron Lee said the drills begin Sept. 8 with a table-top exercise where emergency response officials from the county and the state will review their programs and equipment in an attempt to discover deficiencies in emergency response plans.

Beginning Sept. 12, the county will test a network of 37 emergency sirens that blanket Tooele County and nearby Utah County communities of Cedar Fort and Fairfield. Each Monday at 8 a.m., the sirens will sound and then a recorded voice will boom from the siren towers announcing the alarm is a test.

Each siren tower is equipped with solar panels and a microwave communications link that ties it to other sirens in the network.

"We'll keep an eye on what sirens work and what components in each siren need work. The sirens are like any other mechanical or computer component - they occasionally need work."

The sirens will also be used in a Sept. 10 evacuation exercise in Stockton, where trucks carrying hazardous mining materials regularly traverse the town. "Dangerous chemicals are transported through the center of Stockton. If one of those trucks would spill, we would likely have to evacuate," Lee said.

In the Sept. 10 drill, residents will be asked to evacuate their homes when they hear the sirens and assemble at the LDS Church building in town where officials will have refreshments and emergency response information.

Then on Nov. 16, county emergency officials will participate in a full-scale mock emergency. "We will actually set up road blocks and an accident scenario," Lee said.

Participants in the drill will not know what kind of mock emergency they will face until the day of the drill, which is being choreographed by the Army and the other federal emergency management officials.