Jackson Co. repairing tornado sirens after computer glitch

JACKSON COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The National Weather Serviceissued a tornado warning Tuesday evening that included Jackson County.

When officials tried to activate the tornado sirens to alertthe area, nothing sounded.

"My staff went to set the sirens off and discovered thatthey weren't working," said Sheriff David Lucas simply.

Lucas calls it an unexplainable problem given the recentwork done to all the sirens.

"It was kind of strange," he said, "because this past Saturday,they spent the day changing the batteries out on all of [the sirens] and doingaudible tests on them, and they worked."

The sheriff's staff also tests the system silently everynight using a remote controller in the office.

The device sends a signal from the sheriff's office inNewport to the Jackson County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) facility inDiaz and would normally switch on the sirens.

The connection, however, failed Tuesday and has not workedsince.

It appears the computer network connecting the sirensthroughout the county malfunctioned, making them all inoperable. Emergencyworkers could not activate them manually either.

"We just went into what I would call a recovery mode to tryto figure out okay, they're not working," Lucas said. "What do we need to do toget the word out?"

The sheriff sent out his deputies Tuesday to alert peopleusing sirens from their patrol cars. They also alerted the local media andswitched radio frequencies so that people could pick up their scanner traffic.

"We'd do that again if it ever comes up again," said JeffPhillips, the Jackson County judge. "We want people to be safe."

Phillips now plans to bring in some help to find the flawsin the system and correct them.

"We're going to do everything we can to assure everyone thatthis won't happen again," Phillips said. "Of course, it's electronic. You nevercan tell, but Saturday, [the sirens] were working. We replaced batteries anddid some tests and they were working, so between Saturday and now, I don't knowwhat happened."

A technician is expected to come as early as Friday toinspect the entire system.

County officials are unsure when they will have the sirensback online, so now they are hoping that the extended forecast contains nosevere weather.

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