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San Francisco’s emergency siren system to get an upgrade in wake of Maui fires

City Hall
San Francisco leaders say they will upgrade the city’s outdoor warning system. | Source: Harika Maddala/Bay City News

San Francisco plans to upgrade an abandoned siren system for emergencies or disasters, days after Maui failed to sound a wildfire warning with tragic results.

Mayor London Breed and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin announced plans Thursday to prioritize upgrading the city’s Outdoor Public Warning System.

The siren system’s tests every Tuesday at noon were a familiar part of San Francisco life until 2019, when they were shut off because of fears the system could be hacked and manipulated.

“The recent devastation in Maui was a tragic example of how important emergency notifications to residents, businesses and tourists are,” Breed said in a statement.

The first phase of the upgrade and implementation is expected to begin within six months and cost about $5 million, according to the Mayor’s Office.

In addition to the outdoor warning system, the city can send emergency messages to any cell phone within a specific geographic area.

Maui’s outdoor siren warning system was not activated when wind-whipped flames spread rapidly across Lahaina and other areas to become the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history.