EXCLUSIVE: San Francisco finds funding for emergency sirens; could be back as early as next year

Melanie Woodrow Image
Friday, August 18, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: San Francisco finds funding for emergency sirens
The San Francisco Emergency sirens are coming back. This after they've been offline for a security upgrade with no funding since 2019.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The San Francisco Emergency sirens are coming back. This after they've been offline for a security upgrade with no funding since 2019.

Up until now, the funding needed to upgrade the sirens hasn't been available, but Supervisor Aaron Peskin tells the I-Team that the city just came into about $96 million, with more than enough to bring the sirens back online.

The emergency sirens were taken offline because they were vulnerable to cybersecurity threats.

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"They're ways to communicate in real time. I think they're profoundly important," said San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin.

Important but not a priority for the Department of Emergency Management in recent years, according to Peskin.

"All of these departments bring their list of priorities in priority order," he told ABC7 News I-Team reporter Melanie Woodrow Thursday afternoon.

He says the sirens never made it to the top of the list.

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In a statement, the Department of Emergency Management in part told ABC7 News, it remains the city's intention to bring the Outdoor Public Warning System back online as quickly as funding and project implementation are available.

But the last time funding for the sirens went before the Capital Planning Committee, Peskin says he was the only no vote

"I felt that we should be putting more money even though it was difficult into capital planning city wide and that's why I was the only no vote," said Peskin.

The sirens have been top of mind since the devastating fires in Maui.

"In light of what happened in Lahaina, do you think you made the right call," Woodrow asked Peskin.

"Uhhh. knock on wood so far, but I think Lahaina has taught us that this should be higher up on the priority list and is the reason that I am moving forward with a funding package for it this year," Peskin said following a long pause.

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On Sept. 5, Peskin says he'll introduce an appropriations ordinance to fund the first phase of the outdoor public warning system rehabilitation.

"Contingency funds that we had for Laguna Honda had the state not re-certified that skilled nursing facility are now available to be expended in different ways," Peskin explained.

He says about $96 million. He says the first priority will be to allocate approximately two to $3 million to 27 of the 119 outdoor warning facilities that are in a Tsunami zone. All 119 sirens will cost approximately $5 million, according to Peskin.

Peskin estimates the sound of emergency sirens could return as early as next calendar year.

"It's time to get them back online."

As for the rest of the approximately $96 million, Peskin says his desire is to put a large chunk into capital investment for the city. In an emailed statement to ABC7 News, the Office of the City Administrator in part told the I-Team, the City has a backlog of more than $600 million in deferred maintenance costs, including leaky roofs, broken elevators, sidewalks, and bridge repairs. In Peskin's words, the city now has a little bit of breathing room.

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