Police lights

Natrona County's emergency warning sirens were accidentally activated Monday morning, but authorities said no there was no cause for alarm. By Monday afternoon, the reason for the malfunction was still not clear.

The sirens were activated just after 8:30 a.m. as part of a test of the system, according to a Natrona County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The system is tested on a weekly basis, Sgt. Aaron Shatto said. Monday morning's test was intended to be silent, the sergeant said.

In a Facebook post published an hour after the alarm was sounded, the Natrona County Emergency Management office said that the test was inadvertent.

"The amount of time between the sirens sounding and sharing the information of a malfunction was entirely too long," Emergency Management Coordinator John Harlin wrote in a later social media post. "I will be making the appropriate adjustments to our procedures to expedite the sharing of important information with you."

Although the office had planned on running a silent test of the system at 2 p.m., Harlin said Monday afternoon his office had scrapped the plan as it continued to investigate why the morning's alarm was audible. He said his office did not want to risk stressing the community with another inadvertent false alarm.

If the office needs to broadcast an audible alert, it should work as expected, Harlin said.

Natrona County's 36 sirens were installed a decade ago at a cost of $500,000. Harlin said that although the system was designed to broadcast spoken messages, it does not do so effectively.

"You can't discern the words," he said.

Instead, if the sirens sounded off due to an emergency, a corresponding alert would likely be sent to cell phones, Harlin said. People who hear the alarm could also call the Emergency Manager's office, the Natrona County Sheriff's Office or 911 for more information, he said.

The sirens run on solar power and are triggered by radio waves, Harlin said. If cell service or the power grid fails, the system will still be functional.