Last spring, the outdoor warning siren covering the northwest area of Bedford sounded several times late at night, but there was no severe weather in the area, and there weren’t any warnings to trigger it.
Fire Chief Sean Fay couldn’t figure out why the siren malfunctioned as no one activated it.
“False alarms are very concerning. You don’t ever want to alert citizens if there are no problems,” Fay said.
At first, it was hard to determine if the siren that was malfunctioning was in nearby Hurst, Colleyville or from an athletic field for the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district which has several lightning detection systems.
Fay even assigned someone to sit underneath the siren to see if it would go off. Fay worked with the other cities and the school district and found that the problem was coming from Bedford.
Last week, he told the city council that Bedford needs to look at options for a more “robust warning system so that residents can get notifications of severe weather or other threats such as a hazardous materials spill on their cell phones.
“In my opinion, the sirens are minimally effective,” Fay said in an interview. Yet, they are still the gold standard, he said.
The sirens cost $35,000 each which doesn’t include maintenance. Bedford has 10 warning sirens, including a mobile unit throughout the city, and they are approximately 25 years old.
The siren that malfunctioned last spring is still out for repairs, and the company is having difficulty finding parts for it, Fay said.
Several council members asked how other cities handle warning residents. Fay said they have sirens, but also have systems in place that can send messages to cell phones.
Council members agreed that Bedford needs to explore upgrading its alert system.
Councilman Roger Fisher said he is concerned about senior citizens who rely on the sirens.
“I have friends who don’t own a computer or have Internet access. I think of them in those circumstances,” he said.
Councilman Dan Cogan agreed that it is important to keep the sirens in place to help notify elderly residents, but the city should look at other options for sending out alerts.