Siren doesn’t sound before major damage caused in Salem

April 13, 2023

A tornado siren on South Jefferson Street in Salem, Illinois failed to go off on April 1, the night of an EF1 tornado.

“We know that one of the outdoor warning sirens did not work,” Mayor Nic Farley said.

Because the siren failed to go off, many residents were unaware of the tornado that was coming before it damaged several homes and businesses in the area.


“We had no warning,” Debra Vaughn said.

Jason Vaughn said, “I just barely heard the sirens uptown…by the time I heard that siren uptown, it was too late. It already hit.”

According to Farley, the city was previously aware that the siren did not work.

“We know it was not working, and it’s been a number of years it has not worked,” he said.

According to Salem city manager Rex Barbee, the city is in the process of trying to fix the siren.

“We have been working on that siren, okay, for several years trying to get it to work. We’ve tested it periodically,” he said.

The other alert system in the town, a smartphone-based system called Nixle, did deploy, as well as standard alerts across television.


However, this still left some residents without a warning. One person who asked to remain anonymous does not own a smartphone and did not receive any alerts that the storm was coming. Their house sustained some of the worst damage in Salem.

Fixing the sirens poses a big commitment issue for a Salem government, which is unsure of what the future is for tornado sirens in the town.

Farley said, “We just got cost estimates, and we still don’t have the full costing from those companies on that estimate. But we’re looking at upwards of $50,000.”

“We’re gonna have to determine whether that’s the best use of funds, or as new technologies are brought in, is it better to not have and rely on that and go with another system for alerting our residents,” he said.

The government of Salem is looking into options beyond sirens to alert residents of emergencies. The Nixle system, which many residents of Salem are registered for, is able to alert people with landline phones as well as cell phones. However, people with landlines who want alerts, must call City Hall to get on the list.

According to Farley, the current Nixle system is in the process of being integrated with the county system so that alerts will be county-wide.

“We’ve signed the contract…Hopefully within a month, that system will be completely migrated,” he said.

The siren issue isn’t isolated to only Salem. According to Farley, there have been meetings with the county, which originally installed the sirens, to determine the best way to tackle the problem.

“It’s not just the city of Salem. There’s a lot in the county as well that need fixing,” Farley said.


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