In Dallas, an hour and a half could not turn off the 156 sirens of civil defense

At night from 7 to 8 April 2017, many residents of Texas Dallas jumped out of bed from a loud sound: shortly before midnight, all 156 city civil sirens of civil defense in the city simultaneously joined.

Judging by the video, there was no panic in the city. The townspeople saw perfectly that the weather was good. There is no wind, the tornado is not visible. But the characteristic impression of the end of the world was created: the city at night, and sirens howling on all sides. Surprisingly, the sirens worked an hour and a half – they could only be turned off at 1:20 at night.


Location of civil defense sirens in Dallas. The radius around each siren is 1 mile. The location is chosen so that almost anywhere in the city the distance to the nearest siren does not exceed a mile

Natural disasters in Texas – quite commonplace. Sirens in the previous time included just a few days before, when three tornadoes of the weakest categories EF-0 and EF-1 passed through the neighborhood, destroying several houses.

In this case, the weather did not hint at the threat of a strong wind. In the morning, the citizens could only get lost in conjecture, which meant howling sirens.

Particularly hypocritical comrades were seriously worried: “People asked us questions, maybe we are attacked because of events that occur overseas,” said a representative of the city administration the next day.

Someone joked about this topic, but many were not to jokes. Thousands of calls fell on the city’s rescue service 911. Peak load was from 0:00 to 0:15 – in this interval, the rescue service received about 800 calls. As a result, the real victims had to wait for up to six minutes on the line while the operator picked up the phone.

First, the authorities announced that the activation of the sirens is caused by a malfunction. After almost an hour, they reported that they were working to resolve the problem. This gave birth to a new wave of jokes.

Approximately at 1:20 am, the authorities decided that the only way to stop the noise in the city would be to turn off the radio systems and the repeater – that is, in effect to disable the emergency notification system. After that, the noise completely stopped, said the next day at a press conference, the director of the warning service Rocky Vaz (Rocky Vaz). Thus, the sirens worked from 23:42 (April 7) to 1:20 (April 8).

There, at a press conference, a representative of the city administration said that the reason for the activation of the sirens was probably a hack. Authorities exclude remote hacking – they say that someone got physical access to the switchboard, which unites all 156 city civil security sirens. Rocky Vaz says that hacking urban sirens is a very rare phenomenon, and has not yet taken place on this scale. A request has now been sent to the Federal Communications Commission requesting assistance in finding the culprit and searching for an alternative method of emergency notification in case the civil defense sirens are put out of order.

The warning system remained offline the entire Saturday, while the engineers protected the switch from future hacking. It was promised to be put into operation by 10-11 April, because this week in the Dallas area, thunderstorms are again expected.

This is not the first break in the urban infrastructure of Dallas. Probably, in this sister city of Saratov there lives a particularly large number of hackers-jokers. So, on May 31, 2016, someone hacked up road text boards and brought out various extraneous messages, such as “Work is canceled – go home”, “Bernie’s in the presidency” and “Donald Trump is a werewolf”.

The Texas Department of Transportation said that the road signs belong to a private contractor, and for hacking the scoreboard you need physical access to it. Hacker, whoever they are, may face criminal prosecution. These things do not joke, because foreign labels distract the driver from the road, and therefore, increase the risk of a traffic accident.

It is interesting that despite the formidable statements of the police, on June 4, 2016 an unknown joker again started to display extraneous messages on the road signs. On this day, motorists saw the inscription “The Gorilla deserved it” (a few days before that the authorities made a difficult decision and shot a gorilla who took away a 3-year-old boy accidentally trapped in an enclosure – animal rights activists made a scandal over the murder of a gorilla that Is on the list of endangered species on the planet).

If distracting messages on the road boards really threaten people’s lives, then the inclusion of warning sirens throughout the city can hardly be qualified as such a heavy charge. Probably, here the authorities can limit the standard – unauthorized access to computer networks. However, this is only theoretical. The authorities admitted that finding the culprit is like finding a needle in a haystack. There were no traces on the switch the cracker left.