Tornado siren help

Shortage of police support specialists prompts village to seek county help in activating alarms
Ozaukee Press Staff

A shortage of support specialists has prompted the Grafton Police Department to seek assistance from the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office in activating severe-weather sirens.

“We’re trying to get the process expedited with the sheriff’s office,” Police Capt. Joseph Gabrish said during Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting. 

The sirens are manually activated at the police department’s former dispatch center. With the transfer of dispatch services to the county in November, several police support specialists left the department, which resulted in limited coverage. 

Gabrish said the sheriff’s office will install an interface for the siren system, enabling the office to activate the village’s sirens in the absence of support specialists. 

Since April, Grafton Police Chief Charles Wenten and Village Administrator Jesse Thyes have been discussing their concerns with Ozaukee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. Johnson said the county has made the project a priority and will install the interface as soon as possible.

In the past, Wenten said the department has had difficulty maintaining around-the-clock coverage at the station’s lobby, especially during third shift. The lobby is staffed by support specialists.

Gabrish said the department has hired three support specialists since the transition of dispatching services, but two are currently being trained. Before the consolidation, the department had six support specialists.

In the interim, the sheriff’s office will notify Grafton police officers if they need to activate the sirens when a police support specialist is not on duty. If there are no support specialists available and officers are unable to respond, the sheriff’s office will notify the village’s Emergency Director Bob Sehmer or Wenten to activate sirens.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Sehmer suggested an officer should be at the station if a tornado watch is called.  

No action was taken during the meeting.

For the sirens to be activated, a tornado must be spotted within 15 miles of Grafton, wind speeds measured at 65 miles per hour or structural damage observed indicating wind speeds of 65 mph or higher.

Ozaukee County’s dispatch center took over the village’s 911 calls in November because the village’s contract with Aurora Health Care for its emergency medical dispatch program ended.

Loss of the contract meant the village would have been liable for any medical direction given by its dispatchers.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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