False alarms: Siren mystery solved after rude awakening

Technicians inspect siren equipment Saturday morning after it malfunctioned.
Technicians inspect siren equipment Saturday morning after it malfunctioned.

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - For the second time in a week, residents were startled to hear sirens wailing in Lake Charles.  The mystery was eventually discovered:  It was a malfunctioning siren near LCB Stadium according to Calcasieu Director of Office of Homeland Security Dick Gremillion.

"It's a mechanical device and mechanical devices are known to fail."

The latest alarm, which happened after 6 a.m. Saturday, caused other siren sites to activate and resulted in calls to 911, local media, and a flood of social media posts about the noise.

Technicians have not yet discovered the exact cause of the malfunction, but were seen working on the devices after Saturday's alarm.

The siren sounded on January 26, and at the time, authorities couldn't pin point the exact location.  A statement from Lake Charles Police originally blamed a security system at the Louisiana National Guard Armory on First Ave.

Armory personnel tested the facility security system for KPLC 7 News earlier this week to show it wasn't their alarm that caused confusion.

"Having heard the alarm test go off, I think we can say pretty convincingly that that was not our alarm that you heard the other night," said SFC Jeremy White with the Louisiana National Guard Bayou Bandits Battalion.

If anything good came from Saturday's blast, it helped authorities determine the source of the problem.

"We never could pin down where it was.  I can probably say after this, this was the one where we had the problem," Gremillion said.

While two alarm malfunction incidents have rattled residents, Gremillion advised that if you hear an alarm, you should go inside, shelter in place and check the media for alerts.  If no other alerts are sent out by local media and messaging services like CalcaShout, it's likely a false alarm.

"No news is good news when it comes to shelter-in-place," Gremillion said.

A shelter-in-place means going inside, closing all doors and windows and shutting off air conditioners and ventilation systems.

Local shelter-in-place sirens are tested every Monday around noon.

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury does have the CalcaShout Emergency Alert System, a free service that alerts citizens to emergency situations. For more information on the program, click HERE. To sign up for the program, click HERE.

The siren near Lake Charles-Boston Academy was the first to activate Saturday morning, and other siren sites in Lake Charles soon sounded.

"The sirens are set off using a radio tone.  We're not sure what happened.  It could be interference with some other radio system or a computer modem.  That's what we're looking into right now," Gremillion said.

While the siren warning system is down for diagnosis, Gremillion said there are other methods to alert the public to dangers.

"We have other means to get in touch with people.  Our telephone ring down system and CalcaShout."

The sirens are part of the Community Awareness Emergency Response group, referred to as CAER, formed more than 20 years ago.

CAER siren alerts were initially installed in areas near the plants to sound if a dangerous chemical is released.

In addition to recent false alarms, the alarms sound every Monday around noon while officials test the system.

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