When it finally happens, the end of the world will likely begin like this: with wailing sirens tearing through the night sky sending chills down your spine as you contemplate if you’ve lived a good and meaningful life.
Thankfully, we’re not there yet, but if you live in Dallas, Texas, you got a preview of that terrifying moment on Friday night.
Beginning around 11:44 p.m., all 156 of the outdoor warning sirens meant to alert the residents of Dallas (population 1.3 million) of impending disaster bellowed across the city.
There was no immediate explanation, and the sirens didn’t stop.
Many people, naturally, found the sirens unsettling and some took to Twitter to post video of the incident while the city collectively wondered what impending doom the sirens might be warning of.
When city officials finally attempted to calm the nerves those wondering what the hell was going on they said the system malfunctioned. But that didn’t stop the speculation, or the dark humor.
Dallas’s fire dispatch and its office of emergency management pulled the plug on the sirens, after more than an hour and a half of blaring, at about 1:20 a.m.
But the sirens weren’t signaling the end of the world (or end of Dallas), and they were not malfunctioning, as early reports indicated. The panic was the result of a hacking attack on the city’s emergency alert system.
“It does appear at this time that it was a hack, and we do believe that this came from the Dallas area,” officials from the City of Dallas Office of Emergency Management office confirmed to the media via Facebook on Saturday. “We can’t talk a whole lot about the hack itself, because obviously we don’t want this to happen again.”
In order to get the sirens to stop, the city had to disconnect the system, which had been triggered to activate the sirens over 60 times. The system is still down and the city is relying on other mass notification systems including reverse 911 and social media for emergencies.
Dallas is located in a part of the U.S. often referred to as “tornado alley” due to the high frequency of tornadoes, and those sirens are often used to warn residents of an impending tornado event. So while most of the jokes and concerns on social media didn’t mention much about weather, because of their traditional use, locals take those sirens very seriously.
The city hopes to have the alert system back up and running by Sunday night or Monday afternoon.