From Staff Reports
The recent incident in Hawaii, in which an erroneous emergency message was broadcast, points to the importance of a reliable alert system with dependable precision, an issue already being addressed by Murphy Fire-Rescue.
The fire department recently instituted regular silent tests of its emergency system to complement monthly audible testing of sirens.
“The incident in Hawaii was not the reason we embarked on enhancements to our warning system,” Fire Chief Del Albright said. “We had already planned to implement these upgrades when it happened, but the incident does illustrate the critical nature of these systems.”
Residents may be accustomed to the once-a-month outdoor warning siren testing that happens on the first Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. That’s when emergency management personnel ensure the proper operation of the system by audibly sounding the alarm, followed closely by a disclaimer that the warning was only a test.
An upgrade to the testing software has added silent tests to the system on the remaining Wednesdays of the month.
“There is no change to the first Wednesday test,” the chief said. “Residents will continue to hear the sirens on those days. What’s different is that on the other three or four Wednesdays of the month, we will run an additional test that will likely not be heard by residents.”
The silent tests that occur on Wednesdays are not completely silent. The sirens emit a low hum or what may sound like a growl. Unless they are positioned in close proximity to the sirens, residents will generally not hear the silent test. The sirens will, however, rotate in the same fashion as they do during the first Wednesday tests.
“We recently upgraded our outdoor warning siren system with new software which provides encryption for system security,” Albright said. “Plus, the additional tests give us the capability to ensure the system’s integrity and uninterrupted operation throughout the month.”