This is not a test… the Tuesday noon emergency siren was supposed to return last month, but because of COVID-19 setbacks, will not wail again for nearly three years or longer.
Hey, remember the old Tuesday “noon siren” that blasted weekly, thanks to the the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management? It’s real name is the Outdoor Public Warning System, and it went into a two-year hibernation in December 2019 to add upgrades and replacements. Doing the math, that two years should have ended…. last month.
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA— SFSiren (@SFSiren) December 10, 2019
Well, we haven’t heard that siren in years, and it will be even longer before we hear it again. The Chronicle reports that the Tuesday siren won’t be back until late 2024 at the earliest. The Department of Emergency Management has completely put the siren upgrade on the back burner, which is understandable, considering they’ve had other emergencies to deal with.
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA— SFSiren (@SFSiren) December 3, 2019
While we sometimes mistakenly called it an “air raid siren,” that is exactly what it was when the system was installed in the 1940s. Now it consists of 119 sirens across town, and per the Department of Emergency Management, “The purpose of the alarm system is to alert residents and visitors about critical life-safety emergencies like a tsunami, contaminated water supply or radiological attack."
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA— SFSiren (@SFSiren) November 26, 2019
The upgrades never even started after the system was shut down in late 2019, so the project is starting at Square One. According to the Chronicle, "The city’s Department of Technology has just submitted a capital budget request for $3 million to upgrade the system. Separately, the department will seek an additional $400,000 in annual maintenance costs — including hiring someone to oversee it and replacing parts as they break.” If the budget request is approved, the departments would get the funding October, request proposals to do the work, and if all goes according to schedule (it won’t), the sirens should return “by the end of 2024.”
These enhancements were deemed necessary when hackers took over some similar sirens in Dallas in 2017 and blared them for a few hours. And while it was not a hack, something like that happened here in 2015, when a few of the the sirens mysteriously went off late on a Saturday night and early the next Sunday morning.
If you’re nostalgic for the sounds of that siren, you can hear it again in the 2008 mini-documentary seen above. And let’s be honest, you only care about the nostalgia! You couldn't care less about the emergency mitigation aspects! But to the degree that such things are still useful in the smartphone era, it will be nice to have the Tuesday Noon siren back in 2024, 2025, or whenever they manage to complete this.
Screenshot: SF Department of Emergency Management, 72Hours.org via Youtube