Flooding roads, dangerous conditions, and….Silence from the City of Helotes

Mother Nature decided to bless the Helotes and surrounding areas with large cells of Thunderstorms early Monday morning. The storms dumped between two and four inches across Bexar County causing many of the low water crossings to become raging streams.

Emergency personnel worked to remove one individual from a low water crossing near the Prinn Road and State Hwy 151.

Many of the low water crossings in the Grey Forest and Helotes area were impassible or posed concern for those drivers traveling through the water. As the water flooded over the roadways, the emergency siren the City of Helotes spent $10,000 to fix remained silent.

According to Mayor Tom Schoolcraft, it is necessary to test the extremely loud siren on a daily basis because it is a way to communicate an emergency to the community.

Documentation released by the City of Helotes lists the siren as delivering a wailing sound registering between 119-131 decibels.

The OSHA fact sheet claims Exposure to high levels of noise can lead to:

  • Hearing loss;
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear);
  • Stress;
  • Anxiety;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Gastrointestinal problems; and
  • Chronic fatigue.

A study conducted by Creighton University lists the unsafe levels of noise:

How much noise is too much?

85 Decibels (dB) – the “Action Level” where hearing protection is required.

90 dB – the OSHA, 8-hour average exposure limit.

100 dB – exposures longer than 15 minutes are not recommended.

110 dB – regular exposure of more than 1 minute risks permanent hearing loss.

The City of Helotes has yet to release any information directing citizens to take action or what action should be taken in the event the siren is sounded.

Many including OSHA question the effectiveness of testing it every day at the same time.

The University of Texas tests their emergency siren once a month on the first Wednesday at 11:50am. Rowlett tests their siren on the fist Wednesday of every month at 1pm. The sirens are not tested during times in which severe weather is possible.

The City of Dallas tests theirs at 12pm on the first Wednesday of every month.

The City of Garland tests the siren 12pm on the first Wednesday of every month.

The City of Rockwall tests the siren at 2pm on the first and third Wednesday of every month.

The City of Sachse tests their siren at 13pm on the first Saturday of every month.

The City of Wylie tests their siren at 1pm on the first Wednesday of every month.

Each of these cities and the University of Texas have locations on their website that specifies what the warning siren is meant to notify the type of dangers facing the community and where to tune into or what action to take when the siren is sounded.

All of this information is still missing from the City of Helotes.

The City of Helotes continues to “test” the siren every day at 12noon. So on the day, when the siren could have signified a true emergency and to warn the community of flooding conditions the 131-decibel wailing remained eerily silent.

Do take heart, tomorrow the $10,000 lunch time signal will once again sound throughout the community causing those businesses owners, construction workers, and passer-bys within 300 feet will hold their ears closed as they race to their cars for their lunch pails.

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