Old, left, and new sirens sit side-by-side atop their respective poles Wednesday evening (Aug. 4, 2010) on Limerick Center Road in Limerick.

LIMERICK PA – New emergency warning sirens installed during recent months in portions of Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties by contractors working for Exelon Nuclear will be tested beginning next Monday (Aug. 9, 2010) through the end of November, company spokesman Joseph Szafran announced in a press release dated today (Thursday, Aug. 5).

Exelon, one of Pennsylvania’s largest electrical utilities, last September (2009) began a $3.8 million project to replace all 165 emergency sirens in a 10-mile radius surrounding its Limerick Generating Station. The more modern horns, which sound similar to the current ones, have updated technology and battery back-ups.

Sirens in Chester County locations will be tested first, Szafran said. Individual tests may be performed daily for between 15 and 30 seconds, and could occur several times in a row. Occasionally, he added, siren activations may last three full minutes. Siren testing will continue in September in Montgomery County, and in October in Berks County. Full activation is expected by November.

Residents who have concerns about the tests can call the counties, at telephone numbers Szafran provided: Berks County, 610-374-4800; Chester County, 610-344-5000; and Montgomery County, 610-631-6530.

Both new and old sirens will operate concurrently for four months to ensure they work properly. Completion of the project and removal of the existing sirens is scheduled for 2011.

In addition to the work surrounding Limerick, Exelon also is replacing and upgrading emergency sirens at all of its mid-Atlantic sites, including Three Mile Island, Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, and Oyster Creek Generating Station. Overall, Szafran said, the company is spending more than $9 million to replace 400 sirens.

Warning sirens are one of several methods used by county emergency management authorities to notify the public of emergencies. Besides nuclear energy plant events, individual counties may activate sirens to warn their communities about fires, floods, tornadoes, or hazardous material releases. The sirens are not a signal to evacuate, but to tune radios to local emergency alert stations.

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