Tornado sirens rang out throughout Watertown at approximately 7:10 p.m. Thursday after they were accidentally set off. Although there was some concerns by citizens, they quickly blew over.
According to Mayor Emily McFarland, Jefferson County dispatch, which has access to the city’s tornado sirens, inadvertently hit the siren for Watertown.
“It was a surprise to say the least,” McFarland said with a laugh.
McFarland said the city has a capacity to turn the sirens off and on in the city, but would not say if they have the power to turn them off when activated by the county. According to Watertown Fire Chief Kraig Biefeld, Jefferson County does the tornado sirens for all of Watertown and they went off for approximately three minutes, longer than when the city does testing or maintenance of the sirens.
McFarland said the sirens went off a little longer than they usually do when there is an error. Accidental sirens have gone off in the past, including once this summer, but it was typically due to the age of the sirens and this was not the case Thursday.
“Sometimes (the sirens) malfunction and they have in the past. This is not one of those situations,” McFarland said.
McFarland said the city’s access to the siren is placed on a different screen for dispatch than the other city services so that the city could avoid similar situations from occurring on their end.
The situation did garner a lot of attention from citizens. The Watertown Police Department dispatch center received between 40 to 50 call about the sirens, according to McFarland. City departments posted to their social media pages to assure citizens the sirens were set off in error and there was no need for concern and the posts garnered many different reactions.
The Watertown police department’s Facebook post had 141 reactions, 55 comments and 271 shares, the city’s post got 84 reactions, 39 comments and 78 shares and the fire department’s had 48 reactions, 16 comments and 13 shares. Comments from citizens were equally filled with thanks as well as theories.
“Sounds like something they would say if there was a zombie apocalypse going on and they didn’t want us to panic,” Facebook user William Fischer commented on the police department’s post.
“I thought maybe you were alerting us that Santa came early this year!!!” Facebook user Sarah Eske commented on the city’s post.
Calls to Jefferson County Dispatch were not returned by press time.