Dallas Emergency Siren System Has Coverage Gaps

City expanding use of other warning methods, including social media, digital billboards

Dallas is working to fill gaps in a new emergency warning siren system installed just five years ago.

The $3.3 million network of 153 sirens replaced the city's sirens first installed in the 1960s and 1970s.

But city officials estimate it still leaves about 5 percent of Dallas uncovered.

“I never want to say that we’re 100 percent covered,” said Josh Roberts, emergency management specialist at the city's Office of Emergency Management.

“While we do have very solid coverage throughout the city, it’s incumbent for us to always look for opportunities to enhance our current sound coverage area,” he said.

The city will install two additional sirens with federal grant money by this fall.

One of the sirens will be placed at Webb Chapel and Merrell roads in Northwest Dallas.

Jim Massie, who lives in the area, said he has not heard the new system.

“I used to hear them when they did the first Wednesday at noon test, and I heard them even inside my house," he said. "But I haven’t heard them in quite a while."

At a briefing on the siren system Monday, Roberts told City Council members it may be difficult to ever guarantee 100 percent coverage with the outdoor siren warning system because of weather, geography and background noise in a big city.

In addition to broadcast media that helps warn the public, the city is also expanding the use of other emergency warning methods, including digital billboards and social media.

Councilwoman Delia Jasso said social media was particularly useful when staying in touch with worried constituents during the April 3 storms.

“I get Facebook on my iPhone, so it doesn’t matter if I lose power at home," she said. "I’m getting questions on my phone."

No one died in the April 3 storms, even though 17 tornados caused extensive damage in Dallas and other parts of North Texas.

“One single system is not a cure-all,” Roberts said. “It’s incumbent on us to spread the word, and it’s important for people to have multiple ways to receive the warning.”

Massie, who does not have a smartphone, said said social media should not replace sirens.

“When you hear the sirens, you take them seriously, and you get out of the way of the glass doors, glass windows and things like that,” he said.

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