Sullivan's Island takes major steps to 'save lives' in case of emergency

SULLIVAN'S ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - It's loud, it's new and it may save your life. Looming 60 feet above Sullivan's Island is the latest line of defense for the beach town, filling a void left more than 20 years ago when Hurricane Hugo stripped the island of its last warning sirens.

"Brand new, we got a siren system put into the town of Sullivan's Island," says Fire Chief Anthony Stith. "It's an emergency warning system mainly for hurricanes and evacuations."
Stith mans the helm of the emergency alert system at the Sullivan's Island Fire Station. One computer can relay messages to the two recently constructed towers a few blocks inland across from stations 15 and 22.
"This system is a real-time alert system," says Sullivan's Island council member Jerry Kaynard. "You know if somebody hears it they're going to pay attention."
Kaynard worked hard over the past two years to stress the importance and gain the support of the rest of the town council members for the safety system.
He says the greatest challenge was setting aside money in the budget to make sirens a reality.
But after much debate, a great opportunity presented itself for the town.
"There was concern about the cost," says Kaynard. "The estimates for the system were somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000. We thought that would be too expensive but we were able to acquire and install the system and the actual cost of the town of Sullivan's Island is less than $1,000."
Kaynard and Stith were able to piggy back their emergency sirens from pre-existing military technology used at training areas on the island.

"We think it's the most effective system that we have to alert residents and guests there's a dangerous condition," says Kaynard.

Each tower has the range to project four to six blocks away, first as a siren, then as a voiced warning and finally as an emergency text to residents cell phones.
"It's a little bit of redundancy," says Stith. "But in an emergency situation you want to get the public the most information that you can."
Especially since hurricane season is well underway. 
A recent study by Sullivan's Island shows any hurricane larger than a category 3 would practically turn the town into a modern day Atlantis. Covering it with 12 feet of water in most places.
"If it saves one life and we can advert that kind of fatality," says Kaynard. "I think it's something worth while that we should be doing."

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