5-year-old siren fan helps Ottawa County’s monthly test

Ottawa County

OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Some 5-years-olds are big fans of video games. Some are fans of Pokémon cards.

Black River Elementary kindergartner Gabe Martin is a fan of tornado sirens.

“They’re big and tall and they make loud noises,” said Gabe.

He can even tell you the make and model of most sirens.

“P 50. Modulator. Hornet,” he said, pointing to various siren drawings he’s made. “I’ll tell you the ones that are Federal Signal. This is not a Federal Signal. This is a Federal Signal.”

Ask him how he knows the difference between the various models, and the answer is simple.

“They sound incredibly different,” said Gabe.

It all began when Gabe’s parents heard some unusual sounds coming from his room.

“We would hear a siren on his tablet, and we’d say ‘What are you watching?’ ‘Oh, it’s another siren video.’ Just one thing led to another,” said Gabe’s mom, Casandra Martin.

Pretty soon, he was making drawings of various sirens and getting his mom and dad to stop the car when he passed one by to take a picture.

His mom contacted Ottawa County Emergency Management about Gabe’s siren fascination.

Officials invited Gabe down to the Emergency Operations Center on Friday to set off the monthly sirens test.  

Gabe Martin speaks with a worker at the Ottawa County Emergency Operations Center on May 7, 2021. (Courtesy Casandra Martin)

After a quick lesson on the ins and outs of Ottawa County’s system, which allows emergency management to set off sirens county wide or in any one of four sections of the county expected be to impacted by severe weather, from tornadoes to straight line winds.

Then, it was time to test the network of 82 sirens.

“…four, three, two, one… Go ahead… There we go,” someone said as Gabe clicked the mouse, setting the county’s 82 siren off. 

Afterwards, Gabe was presented with a certificate of recognition from Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Kempker.

“I’m just impressed that a gentleman of your age has so much knowledge about emergency warning sirens,” Kempker said.

Ottawa County Emergency Management Director Lou Hunt says Gabe’s fascination with sirens promotes an important lesson, whether your five or 55,  as we head into severe weather season.

The sirens are just one part in an early warning system.

“There’s a lot of  other things you can do for yourself indoors, like weather apps, NOAH weather radios, local media,” said Ottawa County Emergency Management Director Lou Hunt.

Ottawa County’s system is unique to the area, because their need for an early warning is unique.

“It’s a little different. And one reason is that we get very little warning. What’s coming over the lake is hard to predict,” Hunt said.

 The other lesson: If you hear the sirens going off, don’t panic.

“They’re just for warning people if there’s a tornado, or lighting or a tsunami,” Gabe said.

Early warning systems vary from county to county.

If you’d like to learn more about the ones in your area, here’s a list of links to several West Michigan emergency management agency websites.

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