Reporter: Bob Segall Producer: Gerry Lanosga Photojournalist: Bill Ditton
Every Friday morning, Hancock County puts all its tornado sirens to a test. Some work. Some do not. Either way, it really doesn't seem to matter.
On a recent test day, 13 Investigates reporter Bob Segall asked county officials how the test went.
Cheryl Skaggs, communications supervisor for the county sheriff’s department, said there weren’t any problems.
"We did not get any feedback saying they weren't working so no one said they did not work. No one said they did," she said with a laugh. "So, I don't know."
Skaggs doesn't know, and the truth is, neither does anyone else. The sirens are tested every week at the sheriff’s department, but no one gets the results.
And when we asked how many sirens are in Hancock County, the answers were all over the map.
"Sixteen or 17," said Larry Ervin, the county's emergency management director.
In a later interview, he said: "Approximately 13."
And, according to Skaggs, "We have 11."
"I don't know how many," she confessed, laughing.
When we asked for a list, Ervin referred us to Skaggs, who eventually produced a handwritten list of locations for 13 tornado sirens in rural Hancock County (Greenfield, the county seat, has seven of its own sirens).
But there's just one problem: when Eyewitness News went looking for the sirens, we found some of them simply didn't exist.
Take the reputed siren in Buck Creek Township at the Volunteer Fire Department. There isn't one. The list also says there’s a siren at the Green Township Fire Department. We didn't find one, and neighbors say there's a good reason.
"There's never been a siren here," said Tiffany Higdon. "Never testing, none of that."
"Oh, no, if it was tested weekly we'd hear it weekly," said Mary Holland. "No, that doesn't happen."
Holland is a volunteer at Eden Elementary School. About 375 students attend the school right next to the fire station, where county officials believe they are testing a tornado siren every week.
"That's a communication problem at the very least, that they don't realize where the sirens are," Holland said.
And often, officials don't realize when sirens are broken. One of the sirens in New Palestine hasn't worked in years. And then there's one near the small town of Philadelphia about 50 yards from the mobile home park where Lloyd Young lives.
"It hasn't gone off in quite some time," Young said. "I'm usually here every Friday morning and there was no sound at all today."
Young can see the siren from his front porch, but he hasn't heard it for months.
"In a manufactured home, everybody has fear of a tornado," he said. "I'd like to see 'em get it fixed."
Young said he’s called the sheriff's department three times in three months to report the broken siren, but so far, no one has repaired it.
We asked Cheryl Skaggs if there's any chance of getting the broken sirens fixed.
"That would be...I don’t know who’s responsible for that," she said. “I don't know who's shoulders that lies on."
The sheriff's department says local towns should fix their own sirens. But many towns disagree.
"It's really not our responsibility," said Sugar Creek Township's acting fire chief, Joe Fitzgerald. "I really don't know who’s responsible for it."
Fitzgerald wonders why Ervin, the county's emergency management director, won't get involved.
"It's not his problem; he's not interested in it," Fitzgerald said. "Has the problem been addressed with him? Yes."
Ervin, however, said his agency can't help.
"It's just not economically feasible," he said.
So who's responsible for a broken siren?
"You'd have to go back and actually try to determine who installed the siren," Ervin said. "Was it the township? Was it the fire department? Was it the town manager? Was it the board of works? Was it the council?"
Ervin said he understands people just want their sirens fixed.
"We want the siren fixed as much as they do, but there is no state or federal law or mandate that requires or says who's responsible for the systems," he said.
Even though the county isn't sure who's responsible for the sirens, it still tests them. Of course, it doesn't get test results for sirens that do exist, and when those sirens break, the county can't do anything to fix them.
So what's the point of the test?
"Right," said Skaggs. "Exactly. There is no point."
Friday, December 13 2013 9:22 AM EST2013-12-13 14:22:50 GMT
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers are searching for a man who exposed himself to students this morning in the 3800 block of West Michigan Street. According to dispatchers several girls on a busMore >>
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officers are searching for a man who exposed himself to students this morning in the 3800 block of West Michigan Street.More >>
Friday, December 13 2013 10:08 AM EST2013-12-13 15:08:22 GMT
Firefighters from Brownsburg and Wayne Township were called to the Brownsburg Meadows at the intersection of State Road 267 and Tilden Friday around 9 a.m. for the report of fire. Fire crews arrivedMore >>
Firefighters from Brownsburg and Wayne Township were called to the Brownsburg Meadows at the intersection of State Road 267 and Tilden Friday around 9 a.m. for the report of fire.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 11:20 PM EST2013-12-13 04:20:57 GMT
The Avon Community School Corporation says it's investigating a case of "inappropriate social media activity" involving high school students. Bill Weems, deputy chief of Avon PD, says his department wasMore >>
The Avon Community School Corporation says it's investigating a case of "inappropriate social media activity" involving high school students.More >>
Friday, December 13 2013 12:17 AM EST2013-12-13 05:17:18 GMT
A case of mistaken identity cost an Indianapolis man his freedom and much more. He ended up behind bars after learning police had a warrant for his arrest for trying to kill another man. This case ofMore >>
A case of mistaken identity cost an Indianapolis man his freedom and much more. He ended up behind bars after learning police had a warrant for his arrest for trying to kill another man.More >>
Friday, December 13 2013 10:57 AM EST2013-12-13 15:57:20 GMT
Authorities say a 78-year-old man is recovering after passers-by came to his aid when he was in the snow along a Bloomington road without a coat or shoes. Samantha Valkyrie tells The Herald-Times sheMore >>
Authorities say a 78-year-old man is recovering after passers-by came to his aid when he was in the snow along a Bloomington road without a coat or shoes.More >>
Wednesday, November 27 2013 6:21 PM EST2013-11-27 23:21:46 GMT
It's a case that has baffled police for decades. On November 17th, 2013, it will be 35 years since four young workers were kidnapped from the Speedway Burger Chef and killed. There were four victimsMore >>
It's one of the state's most heinous crimes. 35 years later, the Burger Chef murder case is still unsolved. Now, Eyewitness News has uncovered a new theory connected to the investigation that focuses on another Burger Chef restaurant.More >>
Friday, December 13 2013 7:06 AM EST2013-12-13 12:06:36 GMT
Photo: Tesla Motors
Tesla Motors will open its first store in Indiana Friday at the Fashion Mall at Keystone. The California-based electric-car maker will host its grand opening at 10:00 Friday morning. Tesla, a leader inMore >>
Tesla Motors will open its first store in Indiana Friday at the Fashion Mall at Keystone. The California-based electric-car maker will host its grand opening at 10:00 Friday morning.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 10:47 PM EST2013-12-13 03:47:20 GMT
A pedestrian was struck and killed in Franklin Thursday night. Franklin firefighters confirmed the accident on US 31 between Acorn Road and Schoolhouse Road. The crash happened just before 9 p.m. Thursday. TheMore >>
Franklin police are investigating the death of a pedestrian on US 31 Thursday night.More >>
Friday, December 13 2013 3:07 AM EST2013-12-13 08:07:19 GMT
Four people were stabbed in the parking lot at Sports Authority Stadium after the Denver Broncos' game Thursday night. Denver Police says on its Twitter page that the incident was called in at 9:55 p.m.,More >>
Four people were stabbed in the parking lot after the Denver Broncos' game Thursday night.