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Siren malfunction in Whitefish Bay could be power surge

Posted at 4:41 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 19:31:03-05

WHITEFISH BAY — It was an early morning wake up call for Whitefish Bay and some surrounding neighborhoods after an outdoor siren at Cahill Park sounded off. The strange part? There wasn’t any severe weather.

The Whitefish Bay siren started blaring just after 4:00 a.m. and lasted about ten minutes according to neighbors. It was so unexpected, some called 911.

“I thought well wait a minute they can’t be testing! It’s four in the morning,” said Brian Stiles, who said his son called police after the siren sounded.

“I thought well there isn’t a tornado coming I don’t think and then I thought is there a national emergency?” said Ted Fleagle who lives across the street from the park.

Milwaukee County’s Office of Emergency Management is trying to find out why it went off. A crew member surveying the siren told TODAY’S TMJ4 it could be a power surge. The noise certainly traveled.

It depends on the siren, but according to emergency officials an outdoor siren range can be one to two miles.

The Whitefish Bay neighborhood is used to the noise during a monthly drill, which just so happened to be Wednesday at noon.

“As most people do, they kind of take for granted ‘Oh there it goes again you know it’s the drill,’ but at four in the morning you have to weigh, is this a drill or is this for real?” said Fleagle.

In late October, an outdoor siren malfunctioned in Hales Corners. It ended up being water damage that got into the control box.

American Signal Corporation, the company that installed and maintains all of Milwaukee County’s sirens, says they are assisting the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management to identify the cause of the malfunction of the approximately 40-year-old siren.

"There is no indication the siren system was subjected to hacking," the company wrote in a statement. "Earlier this year, Milwaukee County enhanced its siren control system security, eliminating the threat of hacking."