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San Francisco city leaders look to bring back emergency sirens by end of 2024

San Francisco city leaders looking to bring back emergency sirens
San Francisco city leaders looking to bring back emergency sirens 03:04

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco city leaders are looking to bring back the emergency siren system, and at least one resident is looking forward to their reimplementation.

Liam McNally is among the thousands of people who live in San Francisco's Sunset District.

He lives a few blocks from the ocean. When he moved to the neighborhood around seven years ago, he got used to hearing the faint sound of the waves but also a regular Tuesday test of the city's emergency warning sirens.

"It's just like a funny little character thing about the neighborhood and about the city," he said.

But that sound faded out in 2019 when the city took the sirens offline amidst hacking concerns. They've been offline ever since.

"It was on the perennial list of things to be rehabilitated. It kept falling to the bottom of the list," said Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin.

McNally said there was an instance in recent years where a text alert about a possible tsunami wasn't as effective as the sirens would have been.

"I slept through the text. I woke up to calls from my sister. I think I would have heard the sirens if they had gone on," he said.

Peskin said the city plans to move forward with a plan to get the sirens back online.

"After the Lahaina tragedy, everybody at City Hall realized this was not a want to have it was a need to have," he said.

There are 119 emergency warning sirens placed all throughout San Francisco.

"It's really a critical part of communicating with people on the streets in San Francisco," Peskin said. "In the event of an earthquake, if we can tell people not to go to the Bay Bridge but use the Golden Gate Bridge – if we want to tell people that the right thing to do, which is usually the right answer, is to shelter in place."

"As long as they can do it without spending too much money, then yeah, go for it," McNally said.

Peskin estimates it'll cost around $5.5 million to get the sirens back online and anticipates they'll be up and running by the end of 2024.

"Hopefully they'll not only be back up and running, but they'll be state-of-the-art in the next 18 months," he said. "I hope we never have to use it."

McNally is fine with that price tag. From his standpoint, as long as the system actually works well, there is no need to spend more on a complete overhaul.

"If it's as simple as turning them back on and they're all in good shape and require minimal restoration, then better not to waste and better to use what we have," he said.

At this point, he's on board.

"It's better to be prepared for the worst," McNally said. "If it's an effective system, then it's worth having ready to go."

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