By Kristen Miller
Residents of the Collinwood Lake area can feel a little safer now, knowing they have their own emergency warning siren if they should ever need one.
Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin announced last week that an emergency siren has been erected at the intersection of 213th Street and 746th Avenue.
The effort was prompted by a letter sent to Norlin from George Kraemer, president of the Collinwood Lake Community Association, on behalf of the association and the area residents. His represented Meeker County Board Commissioner Bryan Larson, who suggested he begin the process there.
“Bryan Larson has been very helpful in making it happen,” Kraemer commented. He also noted that retired Meeker County Chief Deputy Brad Lindgren had also been instrumental before retiring, and then Meeker County Captain Jon Thoma, who continued with the project.
“We’re very excited to have it,” Kraemer said, noting that Collinwood Lake residents are four miles from Dassel and Cokato; too far from town to hear those sirens.
The siren was erected July 2, just in time for the monthly emergency test of the county-wide siren system, Norlin noted.
All of Meeker County’s emergency sirens can be remotely activated from the sheriff’s office dispatch center in Litchfield, Norlin explained. They can also be activated at the request of deputies and fire and rescue members who are weather spotting, or the National Weather Service, Norlin explained.
The outdoor warning system is part of an early warning system for anyone who may be outdoors during a severe weather event, and spans a 2,500-foot radius.
Kraemer noted that in the present location, the siren’s coverage includes Collinwood Regional Park.
Kraemer noted that it was difficult finding a location that would provide the most coverage, and he is grateful to Jim and Phyllis Levon for allowing the siren to be situated on their property.
In the past, Norlin said there had been grant money available for such emergency siren projects, and he considered similar criteria in deciding to budget for this project.
He noted that with the campground and how many people would be benefiting from a siren, this was a worthy project to pursue.
The Lake Washington Improvement Association purchased its own emergency siren, though the county maintains it and pays the electrical bill. Big Swan Lake and Lake Francis also have emergency sirens.
The sirens at Collinwood and Lake Washington will go off when the sirens in Dassel and Kingston are triggered.
The county is divided into three weather zones northern, middle, and southern and follows the railroad tracks, in case of any chemical spills along the routes, Norlin explained.
Sirens will go off in the event of an alert, such as during severe weather, or for an attack, which can include anything from a chemical spill or other emergencies.
In a weather event or alert, the siren will sound like a wail with a steady tone. During an attack siren, the sound will go from high to low.
The first Wednesday of the month, at 1 p.m., dispatch sounds both alarms to test the system.
In the spring, usually around Severe Weather Week, the sheriff’s office dispatches staff to all of the siren locations to ensure each of the sirens are working properly.