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North Texas Cities Say Emergency Warning Sirens That Went Off Overnight Were Hacked

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The cities of DeSoto and Lancaster said late Tuesday evening the sirens were indeed hacked when emergency warning sirens went off over night.

The outdoor warning sirens started going off around 2:00 a.m. and blared for about 40 minutes before crews were able to shut them down.

The systems are currently not working and police are investigating.

The city of DeSoto released the following statement:

After consulting with the technical experts who help us to operate the outdoor emergency sirens in our area, and based on the widespread impact to these sirens, it appears that DeSoto's outdoor warning siren system was hacked at approximately 2:30am Tuesday morning. This action appears to have been intentional and the city's outdoor warning siren system is not operational at this time.  Therefore we have turned this matter over to the police departments from the impacted cities for investigation.

The main purpose of these sirens is to alert people who are outside during inclement weather to seek shelter inside.  Once a person is safe inside,  the most important thing that they can do is to secure the most current and accurate weather information possible.  The first step should be for all DeSoto residents to sign up for the Code Red emergency weather warning system which was not impacted. This can be found here. We then advise our residents to visit the National Weather Service Ft. Worth website or go to the emergency weather radio station NOAA Weather Radio for Texas online.  Finally, tune in weather coverage specific to the Dallas Area on any of our local news broadcasts. We strongly advise DeSoto residents to monitor these weather information sources given the potential severe weather overnight tonight and tomorrow.

We will continue to make every effort to safely restore our outdoor siren system and to work with our law enforcement agencies in any follow-up investigations that are conducted.

Meantime, the city of Lancaster said the following on its website:

Based on the widespread impact to the outdoor sirens located in two separate cities, including Lancaster, it has become evident that a person or persons with hostile intent deliberately targeted our combined outdoor warning siren network. Sabotage against a public warning system is more than vandalism.

It is a criminal act and those responsible are subject to arrest and prosecution. Accordingly, we have consulted with technical experts who help to operate the outdoor emergency sirens in our area and turned information over to our police for investigation...

We will continue to make every effort to safely restore our outdoor siren system and to work with our law enforcement agencies in further investigations. Given this new investigation, we will not be able to comment any further at this point. We will utilize the CodeRed System, City Website, and all Social Media outlets to remain in communication.

Earlier in the day a "mechanical malfunction" was being blamed for sirens sounding in southern Dallas County overnight, but DeSoto city leaders were declining to speculate on whether that malfunction was manmade.

"It is alarming, especially in the middle of the night," said Carol Lange of DeSoto.

Emergency alert sirens malfunction in Dallas County
Emergency alert sirens malfunction in Dallas County (CBS 11)

DeSoto city spokesperson told CBS 11 the system was checked just last week and there were no problems, until now.

"I opened the front door... didn't look that bad," said Tom Lange. "Then I called the non-emergency number and they said the sirens were malfunctioning."

The sirens also sounded in nearby Lancaster, another false alarm. Allison Taylor said she was awakened in Red Oak.

"I've been up since 2 this morning," she said. "I did not go to sleep. I had to be up and at it for work."

And this time she couldn't blame her 5-month-old.

Two years ago, Dallas' sirens were triggered by hackers. For now, southern sector leaders say they simply don't know.

"I thought it was real, yeah... thought it was real," said Taylor.

DeSoto staffers quickly took to social media to sound the all clear. Those who had registered for the city's alert system also got a phone call.

"You prepare. You think that it's in the neighborhood," said Taylor. "You're trying to get up and get things going, and that wasn't the case this morning. So yeah, caught me off guard."

She and others want answers and a nap.

"I'm on my way home, now and taking a nap!" Taylor added with a hearty laugh. "Yes, bedtime coming early!"

Robbie Owens contributed to this report.

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