(KMOV) -- St. Louis County tested 185 new tornado sirens this morning.
St. Louis County tested the new $7.5 million outdoor warning siren system at 11 a.m. The test lasted three minutes.
From both a landmass and population percentage perspective, the network of 185 speakers - each mounted on a 55-foot-high tower - will provide substantially more coverage to St. Louis County residents when a tornado is barreling their way.
Two of the 185 sirens are not ready yet in the Wildwood area, but the sirens should be installed within one to two months.
The new sirens have stacked, omni-directional speakers that resemble large, steel honeycombs and are more efficient than the older, rotating horn sirens. This allows the new system to cover more land area with fewer sirens.
All of the new sirens are solar-powered, with integrated storage batteries. As a result, if the power goes out during a severe weather event, the sirens will still be operational.
The new system has voice announcement (or "public address") capability, which gives County emergency management officials the ability to issue directions to specific areas - such as "boil water" alerts.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie A. Dooley says, "This is a program that could very well literally save lives." "Much of the old siren system was built in the 1960s, and reached fewer than 90 percent of our residents. With the new sirens, we have very nearly 100 percent coverage."
The old system was installed prior to the heavy subdivision build-up of South and West County as a result, thousands of residents in those areas had no siren umbrella.
The installation of the siren were overseen by the County's Emergency Communications Commission and paid for by an emergency communications sales tax approved by voters in 2009. TBG, Inc. was contractor for the project.
Other than on test days (at 11 a.m. on the first Monday of every month), the emergency sirens are activated only when the region is under a tornado warning. If the sirens are activated, residents need to immediately seek shelter.
If you live in the county and did not hear the sirens this morning, please call 314-615-2562.