Thousands of people called 911, fearing the worst
On Friday night around midnight, Dallas residents were abruptly woken and startled by the activation of 156 emergency sirens, most often used to warn citizens of incoming tornadoes or dangerous storms. Predictably, the population was confused. Unable to find any explanation, innocuous or otherwise, online they called 911 with thousands of calls, wondering what the problem was.
The city initially called it a “malfunction,” urging people to keep 911 lines clear for actual emergencies.
System malfunction with City of Dallas siren system. Crews working to fix. No emergency. Please do NOT call 911. Thank you.— DallasOEM (@DallasOEM) 1491628742.0
It turns out that the sirens weren’t indicative of an emergency, but rather a problem looming over seemingly every aspect of life—hackers.
Three days later, little more is known about the reason for the hack, let alone who engineered it, but city officials, including the mayor, Mike Rawlings, are calling it a hack in no uncertain terms.
While the identities of those behind the hack are unknown, the director of emergency management, Rocky Vez, has stated that he believes it was perpetrated locally. He said to The Dallas Morning News, “We do believe it came from the Dallas area because of the proximity to our signal you need to have in order to pull it off.”
The hack may have been a prank or an idle display of power—or possibly, a conspicuous tap on the shoulder to let city officials know that their system is very vulnerable, which compromises its efficacy and reliability.
How many more false alarms before people begin to just ignore the sirens altogether?