Illinois City Eliminates Tornado Sirens After Series of Hacks

A northern Illinois city plans to eliminate its tornado siren system following a series of hacks this year.

Harvard officials said they will “decommission” their Tornado Early Warning System after an investigation by the city’s police department determined four malfunctions with the equipment in February and March were the result of hacks in the system. 

“This is not an incident isolated to the city of Harvard, but rather is becoming prevalent across our country,” the city said in a statement. “Unfortunately, in the current system configuration, there is no way to prevent continued unauthorized activations without a significant investment of taxpayer money.” 

The city’s release said the hacks resulted in dozens of calls on both emergency and non-emergency lines in the area which “created distractions from actual emergencies.” 

The system dates back to the 1950s and is expected to cost more than $100,000 to update, according to officials. 

“Given the age, complexity, and significant shortfalls of this archaic system, it is not prudent to continue to invest in a system that was created before the advent of modern communication,” the city’s release states. “When these systems were relied upon, 24 hour weather and news channels did not exist.” 

The warning system went offline Monday and five early warning sirens in the city are expected to eventually be taken down. Authorities this week placed signs in nursing homes, schools and other area locations alerting residents to the change.

The suspect or suspects in the hacking of the system have not yet been identified, authorities said.

The town encouraged residents to rely on smartphone app notifications or purchase NOAA weather radios to stay informed in severe weather.

Download the NBC Chicago app to receive severe weather alerts in real time on your phone. 

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