Hacker scares Dallas residents by activating emergency alarms

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High decibel emergency alert signal, which rotates atop a wooden post. This one is in Spanish Fort, Alabama. It's a Federal Signal 2001 series, for emergencies such as hazardous weather conditions, fires, floods, chemical spills and other types of community or facility emergencies. (Photo Credit: Timdwilliamson via Wikipedia Commons)

Dallas, Texas residents were frantic on Friday night as all 156 of the city’s emergency sirens activated around 11:42 p.m. The sirens continued to blare until 1:17 a.m., when officials finally shut down the system.

The activation was caused by a hack of the emergency siren alert system.

“If we had not disconnected the system, it would have gone on for much longer,” Director of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management Rocky Vaz explained to Buzzfeed News.

The city is currently working with the FEC to find the responsible party, according to Vaz. However, he cautioned that the search is going to be difficult, “like finding a needle in the haystack.”

But despite the difficult nature of the search, it was discovered that the hack was performed in the Dallas area, but not within the Emergency Management’s system.

Frantic residents overwhelmed the city’s 911 call center while the sirens were active. About 800 calls were coming in at midnight alone, with a total of around 4,400 calls from 11:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m.

“We understand that people were concerned we were being attacked with what was going on overseas,” Dallas spokesperson Sana Syed said referring to the recent U.S. missile attacks on Syria. “We are very aware of the situation. It just backs up our lines.”

Now, the main concern is to get the system back up and running.