This is a test for SF's Department of Emergency Management, as the beloved and crucial Tuesday noon sirens are still effectively on mothballs three years past their scheduled return — and the department is struggling to find the funding to fix them.

The quirky blaring of San Francisco’s Tuesday noon sirens, technically known as the Outdoor Public Warning System, has not been heard since December 10, 2019. The sirens, originally installed as air raid sirens during World War II, were found to have a security flaw (basically, hackers could hack into the speakers and take them over for their own purposes). So the SF Department of Emergency Management started an upgrade process that was originally scheduled to take two years. COVID-19 arrived about three months later, the department was thrust into a myriad of other catastrophes to handle, so a delay on the sirens’ return was entirely understandable.

Few of us have ever encountered the sirens being used for real emergencies, but the city had a little love affair with the weekly blaring and “This is a test announcement. Yet a new Mission Local report reveals that some of them would have been used in a possible emergency situation, during the 2022 Tongan tsunami which did cause some flooding in parts of northern California. Police and firefighters were reduced to just broadcasting loudspeakers on Ocean Beach to telling people to stay out of the water and move to higher land.

That same Mission Local report discusses how the Tuesday sirens’ return is still on hold indefinitely. We learned in January 2022 that the cost of the upgrades had gone from $2 million to now $3 million. That seems like nothing in a city where other projects have had their costs increase by hundreds of millions, and we’re talking about a city with a $15 billion budget. An extra million dollars should be like finding change in the couch cushions.

But the city’s Capital Planning Committee, which doles out these funds, is not prioritizing the sirens. They’re repeatedly turned down the Department of Emergency Management’s funding request because there are already things like the AlertSF text system that serve a similar purpose. When asked by Mission Local why the committee had turned down the requests, City Administrator’s office legislative analyst Angela Yip told that publication “It funded other things.” When Mission Local pointed out that AlertSF might not work if cellular service were knocked out in an emergency, she responded, “That’s a valid point.”

If all we’re looking for is a few million dollars here, you almost figure the Department of Emergency Management just set up a GoFundMe and nutty San Franciscans would probably shell out the money in small donations just to get their cult-favorite sirens back. But look no further than the tragic fires in Maui to see the utility of these sirens, as officials are getting heaps of blame for not having used their similar sirens as the fires grew.

According to Mission Local, the Department of Emergency Management will make another funding request for the sirens “early next year.”

Related: Return of the Tuesday ‘Noon Siren’ Delayed Until At Least 2024 [SFist]

Image: San Francisco Outdoor Warning System via Yelp