City warning sirens sound third false alarm Saturday
New electric relays did not solve all the problems

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

April 24, 2004 -- Sulphur Springs' emergency warning sirens sounded again in the early morning hours Saturday just as a line of thunder showers moved into the area. This makes the third time the warning system has malfunctioned and caused unnecessary concern for city residents.

Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Rex Morgan, fire department units and City Manager Marc Maxwell hit the streets around 3:30 a.m. to shut down the screaming sirens.

Just over a week ago, when the sirens sounded off the second time, Maxwell said he would have the problem resolved this past week but the single problem that was remedied apparently did not fix the system.

"The city's electrician and a Verizon technician have been working all night on [the problem] and they have isolated the problem," Maxwell said Saturday morning. "It is a line between the phone station switch [central office] and the siren near the hospital that is getting voltage somewhere and I don't know where."

After the sirens sounded the first time, city officials indicated the problem might be with the telephone company's lines, but Verizon spokesman Bill Kula said the problem was with the city's equipment and not Verizon's.

"Our technicians investigated the situation and discovered the inadvertent alarms were as a result of a problem within the city's network, not Verizon," Kula said last week.

Maxwell said indications are there have been two separate problems and the most recent incident was caused by electric current on Verizon phone lines, primarily on the line to the siren near the hospital.

The spurious voltage is enough to trigger new relays installed at each of the siren locations and, Maxwell said, different voltages are being found at various siren locations.

"The problem is, as we've been replacing these relays when they wear out, the new relays are far more sensitive," Maxwell said. "So, a little bit of voltage from anywhere can set these things off."

The city's electrician is exchanging the new relays for ones less sensitive to voltage levels that may be used until a new type of relay system can be installed.

"It is making it very clear I can't guarantee it won't happen again unless we go to some different type of system, probably radio," he said.

The city manager said all the warning sirens have been turned off and will remain off until the problem is finally resolved, probably by changing the equipment used to trigger the alarms.

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