DESOTO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – With severe weather looming in North Texas, several cities are urging residents to stop relying solely on outdoor warning sirens. The warning systems have been vulnerable to hacker attacks, but officials say the bigger issue is that their purpose has been distorted over the years: they’re not tornado sirens.
“At one time outdoor sirens were the main way to alert people who are outside to seek shelter during unforeseen natural events, however the technologies that are available today have greatly reduced the need for that reliance,” said Matt Smith, communications manager for the city of DeSoto.
Instead, in both DeSoto and nearby Lancaster, city leaders are urging residents to enroll in targeted alert systems. In DeSoto, the system called ‘Code Red’ can send emails, text messages or even phone citizens during emergency situations.
The need to have several sources of information during severe weather became more apparent after hackers were blamed for an overnight false alarm in those cities last month.
“It’s a scary situation,” said Yvette Martinez. “You know, not trusting the sirens… you have to be more cautious with it as well.” So, Martinez was hurrying home with plans to sign up for the alerts right away.
Meanwhile, DeSoto city officials say that they are working to restore the siren system, while also adding high level security solutions to prevent further attacks. “We believe that we are in good shape,” said Smith in a statement to CBS 11. “But it will not be fully operational until all of the recommended security enhancements have been implemented.”
Meanwhile, residents are making room in crowded garages and looking to make it through this next round of severe springtime weather — unscathed.
“I know it’s going to be pretty severe,” said Paul Vasquez, who admitted that he recently converted his garage into additional living space. But, his biggest concern is keeping his family safe if the weather does the worst. “The closets and the tub… we don’t drive or anything like that, try to find the safest place in the home.”
“I don’t know,” said Martinez with a worried laugh. “It’s hard… just stay inside, and just ride it out!”