Adopt a siren, avert disaster

Hawaii (Honolulu)

Living under the threat of hurricanes and tsunamis, Hawaii has numerous outdoor warning sirens in place. And it’s of utmost importance that they are in tip-top condition, should an emergency alert be raised. While the City and County of Honolulu runs tests every month, many of the 190+ sirens are ready to be pensioned off after 50+ years in service.

Peter Hirai from Hawaii’s Department of Emergency Management says: “One challenge we always face is how to detect if each siren is actually working. For many of our sirens, we have city parks crews or other city entities to monitor the siren during the test, and report if it activates or (more importantly) if it does not work. But some of our sirens are old, and we have about a 5%-10% failure rate in any one month.”

As the department didn’t have enough workers located near every one of the sirens, Code for America designed the Adopt-a-Siren crowdsourcing scheme. By adopting a siren, participants – individuals, companies or organisations – simply “agree to listen for the siren test and report any problems” via email. This sense of siren ownership can help avert disasters.

Written by

Sorrel Moseley-Williams (01 October 2015)


Sorrel Moseley-Williams is a journalist and sommelier who has been based in Argentina since 2006.

Project leader

City and County of Honolulu

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  1. Samantha Walker

    Hi! My students in South Carolina are learning about the Adopt-A-Siren program you have. We have been studying about earthquakes and tsunamis. They are curious to know what type of batteries your sirens use. They also want to know what happens to the old sirens that don’t work anymore. Thank you!

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