They're the primary way that a city warns its citizens and that could mean trouble in Longview where half the warning sirens have failed one of the last two tests. Four failed a test last Wednesday and five failed a re-test Monday.
It's a scary sound--the wail of an emergency warning siren going off--but it's even scarier when it doesn't, especially when there's a real emergency.
"We want that advanced warning so we can know to get to safety and being a city like Longview you would think that the emergency communication system would work effectively," says Annette Taylor, a Longview resident.
During a test last week, the sirens at four locations didn't sound. this week it was five, only one of which, at Longview High School, is the same as last week. That's means on average eight out of the 16 are not working consistently.
During Monday's retest at noon, we were standing in front of Longview High School and you could hear sirens going off all across Longview, but at the one right across the street, all you could hear were the birds chirping.
"They can't trust their siren systems and that's unacceptable to us...and it's been long enough that we should have had these repaired by now," says Chief Richard Lazarus with the Longview Fire Department.
Nearly a year ago Chief Lazarus recommended replacing or upgrading the system. It was ultimately decided to upgrade and repairs were made just last November.
"We've reached a point that we're going to have to sit down with the contractor and with the manufacturer and make a decision whether we're staying with the current contractor that we have or find someone else," Lazarus says.
Next, they'll look at all 16 sirens and figure out mechanically what's not working, but there's no timeline yet on how long this second round of repairs will take.
We spoke with Longview ISD Monday, and they say it's important sirens next to their schools are working for the safety of their students, but they also added the school district has a weather system, notifying them of any emergencies.
As for individuals, Lazarus says they shouldn't rely on the sirens alone. He recommends getting a weather radio.