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      Cole County adds speaking sirens for emergencies

      Cole County added two new tornado sirens Wednesday morning as part of a program to build more in the city and county.

      One of the sirens is off Christy Drive, the other off Big Horn Drive.

      The new sirens have new features, including solar panels so that they can run if a storm cuts electricity. They can also judge a more exact position of the highest risk areas, and sound the alarm in only those portions of the county.

      Director of emergency management in Cole County Bill Farr says the new sirens will also do more than blare the sirens.

      "These are all digital, you'll see they have a large speaker system on top where we can actually put out a voice message in case of maybe an evacuation downtown or something like that," Farr said.

      Annie Fowler, a Kansas City resident, said her house had been hit and destroyed by a tornado before, so she always takes warnings seriously.

      But ever since Joplin, Fowler thinks other people are taking tornado watches, warnings and sirens more seriously too.

      "I think Joplin's pretty close to everyone in Missouri so there was an identification with their plight, with what they went through," Fowler said.

      Fowler's friend, Shirley Church, had a similar opinion.

      "It seems like the frequency has increased all around really. And Joplin was pretty big and serious so it's a cause for concern for me," Church said.

      Farr said that plans for adding new sirens have been in place for years, but disasters like Joplin pushed the process along.

      "The year before that there were 44 people killed in a tornado around North Carolina, which was a county about the size of Cole. That's when they really decided that yes we need to move forward," he said.

      In total, about 30 sirens will be added throughout the city and county.