Ahead of monsoon, this Kerala panchayat revives decades old siren warning system

The siren was a source of wonder for the people who had never seen a similar mechanism in any other area at the time. Photo: Special Arrangement.

Pathanamthitta: These days there are many ways a panchayat could warn residents of an impending disaster. Ranni Pazhavangadi panchayat in Pathanamthitta has fallen back on an age old system of warning. The panchayat has replaced the legendary old siren with a modern one.

The old siren was built in the 1980s but has stopped functioning for over four decades. The new siren has been installed at Ittiyappara, behind the Panchayat office. It has an audible range within 3.25 km and functions at 400/440 V. The blare of the siren used to serve as a warning in the past. This panchayat located on the banks of the Pamba River was ravaged by the floods in 2018.

''Shops and houses were destroyed and we suffered huge losses. The close proximity of the Pamba river has also left the region prone to constant flooding in recent times. With the siren, we can now give warnings to people so they can secure their belongings and take precautions in case of any possibility of natural disaster, ''says Anitha Anilkumar, President, Gram panchayat.

She says the siren was an integral part of people's lives here. ''People may have watches and clocks to tell the time, but the siren is a historical landmark for us. We also wanted to preserve its antiquity,'' says Anitha. She recollects that in her childhood, they often gathered near the big market just to hear the blare of the siren.

This market used to be one of the biggest markets in Pathanamthitta. But now, most shops have shifted to the roadside and the towns. The panchayat has retained the location of the new siren, perhaps as a nostalgic reminder. The siren was a source of wonder for the people who had never seen a similar mechanism in any other area at the time.
''Since the siren is adjusted with a timer, it will function automatically. The timer is set to sound its alarm at 9 am, 1 pm and 5 pm,'' says Resmi PR, electrical contractor. The parts of the old siren will be auctioned. The new siren will begin functioning after a trial run with electricity connection.

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