An equipment malfunction is to blame for an erroneous tornado siren that sounded on Madison’s east side Monday night.
The siren, located at the corner of Buckeye Road and the Interstate, sounded off for just under half an hour, even though there was no tornado in the area.
J. McLellan, a spokesperson for Dane County Emergency Management, says they know the siren had a mechanical malfunction, not a radio malfunction. But there’s still more to piece together.
“We got quality equipment and everything else. To what went wrong, they’re still troubleshooting it. They’ve identified parts, but there’s no clear determination of what caused what yet.”
McLellan says there are over 140 tornado sirens in Dane County, and all are checked regularly to make sure they’re functioning properly.
“It’s important for us that people have faith and confidence in the system. The outdoor warning sirens are only one component of Dane County’s notification system. They’re sounded at least nine times a year. They work after sitting through winter, and we have regular maintenance schedules that they go through. Somebody is actually looking at that siren at least once every year, and not just the siren, but the control box, everything. They’re incredibly reliable,” says McLellan.
The equipment specialist who arrived on the scene last night to fix the issue credits an alert neighbor for realizing the siren had an error.
“Our equipment specialist talked to the neighbor who is the closest to the siren, and kudos to her. She heard it go off last night, and the first thing she did is go online to try and find more information. And when you hear the outdoor warning sirens go off, it’s telling you to go find more information. When she couldn’t find anything online, she realized it was a malfunction and called it in. That is the right thing to do. When you hear the outdoor warning sirens, it’s telling you to look for more information.”
Six years ago, a tornado siren near Truax Airfield went rogue due to a mechanical failure.
Though last night was a false alarm, we are in the midst of tornado season. Dane County residents can sign up online to receive email and text message alerts about threats to public safety, including tornados, right here.
Modified map of Dane County Siren System’s estimated outdoor coverage.