Galena Park finishing installment of new emergency warning system

Lileana Pearson Image
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
Galena Park says emergency warning system will be replaced
When unknown fumes filled the air in Galena Park, the city issued a shelter-in-place over social media. But people who aren't on social media did not know. Now, leaders are looking to combat the information roadblock.

GALENA PARK, Texas (KTRK) -- Galena Park is no stranger to living on the edge of a potentially dangerous situation. Volatile weather and dozens of refineries mean residents are always on alert. So on Monday night, it wasn't a massive shock when a strong odor filled the air.

"When we came outside, it burned your nostrils," Lei Gonzales said.

"A lot of people were experiencing headaches and nausea, so we came out to see what was going on, and there was a really strong odor," a resident named Mendez said.

The city let residents know through Facebook to shelter in place and turn off AC units, but many people Eyewitness News spoke with on Tuesday had no idea about the order.

"No. We tried to look it up online on Google, trying to see if there was anything," Gonzales said.

Galena Park Fire Chief Tom Ehlers said the city knows social media is a less-than-perfect way to inform people about an imminent threat to the city and spent the last four years and more than $100,000 on building a new alarm system.

"That should be ready to go by the end of this week," Ehlers said.

About 14 years ago, there were three sirens that would emit tones to warn of potential emergencies, but they are no longer in use. So since then, the best communication system the city had was social media.

"Not everyone is on Facebook. Not everyone is on Twitter," Ehlers said.

The city installed three new sirens that will not only sound tones but give spoken warnings and instructions in English and Spanish. And if more urgency is needed, city leaders can send pre-recorded alerts from their phones to the speakers or use the command hub at the police station to speak directly through the speakers to give unique warnings and instructions.

"Pasadena, Deer Park, and La Porte have a siren system. The refineries have a siren system in their facilities, so this allows us to be able to extend those warnings," Ehlers said.

The city plans to talk at the local schools to teach kids what the different tones mean and why the warnings are important. Educational material will also be sent out in English and Spanish with water bills to get information into homes.

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