Scott Jensen, principal of Fremont High School and Fremont Public Schools' executive director of secondary operations and federal programs, was on the phone, outside of the Fremont Middle School building on the eastern edge of town Monday.
It was then that he learned that, throughout Fremont, tornado sirens were sounding off. But he didn’t hear the sound of the sirens himself, he says. He heard the news from the person on the other end of the phone call, Fremont Public Schools superintendent Mark Shepard.
“I think with the wind and the thunder, it kind of made it so we couldn’t hear it,” Jensen said. “I talked to a couple of the guys that were working out there and asked them, and they said they had thought they had heard it earlier, but with the wind and the thunder, they didn’t hear anything.”
The sirens are one of many alert systems that Fremont Middle School uses to track severe weather and prepare for emergencies, and so the low volume would likely not hamper an emergency response within the school building, Jensen said. And no one was in the building at the time of Monday’s storm threat. But the incident was enough to prompt Fremont Public Schools to plan on reaching out to the city to see if anything could be done to boost the volume at the east end of town, Shepard and Jensen said.
Shepard said that during an administrator’s meeting the day after the storm, he asked other administrators if they had heard the sirens and one other administrator, who lives just north of Miliken Park Elementary School, also reported not hearing the sirens.
“I know that our city will take care of it, they just need to be aware,” Shepard said. “Our city is so responsive to all of our needs in the community, not just the school district's.”
Out east by the Middle School, others had mixed responses as to whether they heard the sirens.
“I personally didn’t hear them,” said Nate Miller, who was working on a skid loader nearby for a project with Swain Construction. “I think I should have.”
He added that he didn’t think the skid loader would be loud enough to drown out the sound, but that some others at the site did hear the sirens. And not far from there, Pastor Aaron Horton of the Fremont Nazarene Church said he heard them loud and clear. One individual who commented on a photo of the storm shared by the Fremont Tribune on Facebook reported that they could “barely hear” the sirens from their home in East Day Acres.
City Administrator Brian Newton said that the city was planning on putting in five new tornado sirens “to fill in some areas that we don’t feel the coverage is adequate,” which included one near St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on the eastern part of town.
However, those proposed sites were cut after the city experienced a budget shortfall in September.
“We certainly need to put them back in the budget when we’re not in a budget shortfall,” Newton said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Scott Jensen's position. He is the principal of Fremont High School and the executive director of secondary operations and federal programs for Fremont Public Schools.