This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.


Got my city of Franklin newsletter in the mail a few weeks ago. There on the front page above the fold read this headline:

Early Warning Weather Sirens Soon to be Activated in Franklin!

With an exclamation point even! As if we are supposed to celebrate!

After years of debate, warning sirens for Franklin were approved in 2010. In May, I received an e-mail from Franklin Fire Chief James Martins. It read, in part:

Weather Warning Sirens became a hot topic last spring when Channel 12 did a tornado warning story that included the fact that Franklin was the only Milwaukee County Community that does not have Weather Warning Sirens.  My phone began to ring from citizens asking why. Due to my duty to respond to citizens concerns I began to explore the Franklin siren issue that had been proposed many times over the last 30 years.  Every time it came up for a vote it failed.  The councils involved stated, the sirens were needed but the city can’t afford it. 

Now in 2009-2010 we have citizens asking why so many in
MilwaukeeCounty, and around the country have committed to this system, Franklin continues with no weather warning devices.   On my desk I have almost 100 names on a petition directing the city to install sirens.  In recent years no issue has generated as much citizen input.  I have no petitions or calls stating we should not do sirens.  I’m just a lowly fire chief but it seems when this number of citizens get involved that’s almost a mandate.

I wrote in response:

I sincerely appreciate this thoughtful e-mail from the Chief. Most people know my complete support for law enforcement, including our firefighters. During last year’s city budget deliberations, while others were supporting cuts, I was advocating for keeping the current level of police and fire services.

I don’t doubt the chief when he says he’s heard from many residents that want tornado warning sirens. We need to be reasonable and fair. If someone was to inform the average
Franklin resident that Franklin is the only municipality in Milwaukee County without the sirens, what do you honestly think the natural, immediate reaction would be?

However, the issue is not that simple. There are other factors to consider including cost, affordability, our current budget status, future revenue, necessity. How about siting? Do we even know where they will be placed?

What about competitive bids? Are we going to hear a single glowing presentation by just one firm and then vote aye or no? Apparently. That’s not good business or common sense.

Just because one is opposed to the sirens doesn’t mean the individual is soft on public safety.

The fact is,
Franklin has numerous, very effective tornado warning sirens already in place:

Every local TV station in town.

Cable and Satellite TV, including various weather channels.

Every radio station in town.

The National Weather Service.

The Internet.



Cell phones.

Conscientious neighbors.

Concerned friends.

I suspect, however, that when the dust settles,
Franklin will purchase sirens for one simple reason. It simply cannot shake its tax and spend mentality.

During a Common Council meeting, Alderman Steve Olson said:

"I'm going to make this statement, (and) I'm sorry if it offends people: I don't need the government to tell me when to come out of the rain. Just because we have the cash doesn't mean we have to spend it."

Franklin resident Shari Hanneman commented on my blog:

“I was at the Franklin Little League Field last summer and there were no less than 5 people with Blackberries and Smartphones checking the weather when the sky turned dark.

The point being, given the level of technology at our fingertips and the saturation of weather on TV news, we all have no excuse for taking responsibility for our own safety and well-being! It's like the people who sue the tobacco companies for their addiction to cigarettes or those who sue fast food restaurants because they are fat.

Some insightful readers to also weighed in:

“And if you can afford property taxes in Franklin, you can afford a $30 weather radio AND the fresh batteries to run it (just change the batteries when you change the batteries in you smoke detectors)."

“Who would pay for these sirens? As a tax payer with ready to burst taxes in Franklin, I don't think I could afford anymore tax payers footing the bill for anything else.”

The Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management reports that between 1982 and 2008, there were 4 tornado events in Milwaukee County. Thankfully, there were no fatalities. Sixteen people were injured.

Rusty Kapela of the National Weather Service in Sullivan provided me the following details on those four tornadoes:

Aug 17, 1985     F1  ...moved ESE out of Waukesha County into far northwest corner of Milwaukee County.  About 3 homes were damaged along with some power-poles/lines in Milwaukee.

May 24, 1989    F0  ...just a brief spin-up in far northwest corner of
Milwaukee County...path less than 1/10 mile.  I was unable to find out how much damage occurred with this weak tornado since a line of storms also moved through the county with damaging straight-line winds.  About $1M in damage reported....but I suspect mostly due to the thunderstorm winds and not the tornado since the path length of the tornado was so short.

Mar 8, 2000      F1 ...spun up at Mitchell Field and moved northeast into St. Francis    $4.6 M estimated damage, path length of 1.7 miles

July 2000           F1 ...5.4 miles southwest of Mitchell Field spin-up location (near I-94 and Ryan Rd intersection)...and it moved   ESE into northern Racine County.  Several homes damaged, and some power-poles/lines...totaling about $1.5M (estimated) in damage.

This year, Germantown and Eagle experienced troubles with their warning systems.

In June, I blogged that Emily Laidlaw, associate scientist for the Societal Impacts Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, found inherent problems with warning sirens.

In the end, the tax and spend mentality at City Hall prevailed, as it normally does.

Read where those sirens will be located.

Finally, a comment on one of my blogs from fellow blogger, dad29:

Boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome to follow.”


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