SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco is working on bringing back its outdoor emergency alert system.
The sirens which were meant to warn of tsunamis and other disasters were taken offline two years ago for repair. The sirens will be silent for at least two more years.
San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management says they're an important redundancy to warn people about tsunami's or any other major disaster.
Hundreds visited San Francisco's Ocean Beach just days after a volcanic eruption near Tonga sent waves 5,000 miles to California's coastline. Most people learned about the tsunami advisory on their phones, and a few who were already by the beach heard from first responders.
"Yeah the police officer told me," said Edward Downing. "He says 'We're closing the area.' So I go, 'What's going on?' He says 'Oh there's a tsunami warning."
What people didn't hear was the outdoor alert system which has been in place since the 1950s. Every Tuesday at noon the sirens would blare out as a reminder that the infrastructure was in place and at the ready.
"Right now the sirens are offline and they are offline due to the fact that there were some significant security issues related to the technology," said Mary Ellen Carroll, Director of San Francisco's Department of Emergency Management. "So, we had to take them offline about two years ago."
The city's Department of Emergency Management says this tsunami advisory would not have triggered an outdoor alert even if it were up and working because of the low risk to the area. Director Carroll says the department relied on first responders securing the beach and existing wireless technology to push alerts to the mobile devices of those who have opted into AlertSF and if necessary even to those who have not. "We would not have sounded the sirens for this alert, and we did use AlertSF, out texting alerts to let people know what was going on," said Carroll.
The outdoor alert system was supposed to be back online this year, but COVID put the project on the back burner. Now the city is working to secure funding to get the outdoor alert system up and working again.
"We would love to have the sirens back online," said Carroll. "We love redundancy in emergency management preparedness and we'd love to have that redundancy. So, we're hopeful that we'll be able to get the funding to get those online."
The Department of Emergency Management says that while the tsunami advisory did not pose any risk to people living in the city, it serves as a reminder that we live in a seismically active area as well. The department is encouraging people to text their zip codes to 888-777 to get updates on any emergency situations.