Bismarck city leaders unsure if warning sirens would work if needed

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 7:50 PM CDT
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When severe weather hits, sirens are supposed to alert citizens of any threats, such as tornadoes. But that system is Bismarck isn't working as planned.

The city of Bismarck warned residents of a system wide failure in the outdoor warning sirens last week.

City leaders say the sirens themselves are operating as designed, but the activation system which sends an alert to turn them on has been malfunctioning for over a year.

This puts doubts in citizens' minds if they'll work when they're supposed to.

When severe weather threatens the area, these 24 sirens are meant to alert you.

"If we were to have bad weather, which is the season were heading into and the system didn't work, no one would get notified if there was something coming," said Paul Lies, supervisor of the electrical department for the City of Bismarck.

City leaders have seen issues for more than a year.

"We're relying on Dakota Communications to take care of that, and it’s just not being taken care of it,” said Gary Stocker, emergency manager.

The Public Works Department said they've maintenance the sirens to their fullest capacity.

"As far as the system wide failure, there's nothing else we can do other than wait for them to get that fixed," said Lies.

Without the central activator working, the sirens won't sound.

"As far as activating them individually in a manual way, for somebody to go out to these 24 locations and try to flip some switch that's not an option," said Stockert.

This worries leaders as we enter summer, which is often a time of active weather patterns.

"We need to start looking at upgrading this system. It’s too important of a system to have not reliable. We need to have something that we know is going to work when something happens," said Lies.

Stockert said the community needs to rely on other types of warnings such as TV, Radio, and weather radars.

Since these malfunctions are ongoing, Stockert has asked the City Commission to appropriate funds to update the activation system and disassociate with Dakota Communications.

Bismarck commissioners will review this request on Tuesday night.