GOSNELL, AR (abc24.com) - People living in Gosnell, Arkansas have serious questions about the town's tornado warnings. Gosnell is 72 miles northwest of Memphis.
Residents there believe the sirens aren't being tested regularly. We learned they have to be manually started during an emergency.
Gosnell's police chief, who's been on the job since Tuesday, says he doesn't know why the sirens aren't being tested on a weekly basis or why the technology hasn't been upgraded, but he promises to fix the problems.
"That needs to be one of their top priorities, people's safety down here," says Gosnell resident Antonio Banks, who lives right next to one of the town's four emergency sirens.
"Normally every Monday about 12 o'clock they would test it. They don't do that anymore," added neighbor Bill Decker, who says the city hasn't tested the sirens in six months.
Gosnell's new police chief, Darrell Watkins, promises the sirens work. "Now that I'm chief I'm responsible for that; I can guarantee you they're going to be tested," he says. "We tested them yesterday and they work fine."
But, he adds, "we have to turn our sirens on by our radios."
The problem with that is the police radios have changed, but the tower radios haven't.
"We have a portable radio that we go and we stand underneath the tower and we turn it on. That one works and it sends out the message to the other ones and all of them work," says Watkins.
As to how long that takes, Watkins can't say. He explains, "He doesn't have to be underneath tower, he could be a city block away as long as that radio transmission reaches the tower."
"You manually got to come and cut them on? What if he gets caught up in and he can't cut it on. We're screwed," notes Banks.
Watkins assures, "We have a plan and we're going to take care of the sirens because we have to. Lives are on the line, our lives are on the line. Our families are out here. We live here in Gosnell."
The police department has ordered a part to fix one of the towers; it will arrive in five to six weeks. They then have to test it and make sure if it works. If it doesn't, they'll have to find another solution.