The Siren Board

Discussion of Outdoor Warning Systems
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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 5:19 am 
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Given the complete lack of information about the old Austin CD system, I decided I'd do a little research.
Here's what I found.
All information was found on newspapers.com, originally published in The Austin American and the Austin American-Statesman.
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Around August of 1960, Austin - Travis County Civil Defense purchased 13 sirens. Eleven of them were Thunderbolts, and two were STH-10s. The STHs went up on City Hall and at 19th and Lavaca, and the Thunderbolts went up at these locations:
Govalle Fire Station (pole with partial standpipe still standing)
Atlanta electric substation at Quarry and Saybrook
41st and Red River
First and Center
Hancock and Bull Creek
Wooten Elementary
35th and Exposition (complete unit still standing, actual address 2438 W. 35th St)
Blackshear Elementary
Koenig and Airport
11th and Salina
West Elizabeth and Newton

There was also a Muzak voice warning system that covered some 150 businesses.
By 1961, a monthly testing schedule - first Friday at 10am - had been set.

Even from the start, the system was plagued with issues. In the days before and on May 3, 1961, three sirens were sabotaged and one failed altogether. During repairs to one of the sabotaged units, the unit being worked on randomly went off, as did several others in the city, with no explanation. As a result, the system was temporarily shut down and a factory rep came out to look at it. In fact, the first successful test didn't even occur until June 6, 1961, at 3:00 in the afternoon. However, malfunction would soon strike again, on January 9th of 1962, when the two STH-10s went off for no reason whatsoever and again on May 9th, when unit 13 (Thunderbolt at First and Center) cried wolf for the second time, the first being April 28th of '61. This resulted in that unit being shut off until it was sorted out. The next day, a test was conducted and four of them didn’t sound, one due to mechanical failure and three to sabotage – cut wires.

However, despite the hex seemingly placed on this system, what nobody could ever imagine was that the unit at 40th and Red River would nearly fall victim to a terrorist attack. On June 5, 1961, some idiot wedged a homemade bomb into the RCM cabinet and left it to blow. Fortunately, it never did. A cop was checking out the siren mere minutes before it was to undergo an individual test and discovered a crude homemade bomb, composed of a medicine bottle with a partially burned fuse sticking out of it. The flame had smoldered out before it reached the end of the fuse.
By 1962, almost all the bugs had been sorted out, and they even worked after skipping a test (November was skipped, due to the Cuban Missile Crisis). There were still issues here and there but the system was much more reliable than it had been.

As it turned out, the malfunctions were due to radio issues. As such, in 1964, the city switched to phone line activation.
In August of 1965, four Altec-Lansing Giant Voice units were installed downtown. One four-speaker array went up on the Capital National Bank, and three two speaker units on the Crest Hotel, the International Life Insurance building, and the county courthouse, with plans to equip the existing horns on University Tower with the requisite controller and install a whole unit somewhere around the Capitol. The first voice-only tests of this system were to be on August 20 and 21.

By July of 1967, the test time had been pushed forward to 9:50, and four new Thunderbolts were in the works. Tentative locations were:
North Hills @ Edgefield
Rabb @ Fortune (actual address 2115 Rabb Road, removed 2015 or so)
Fordham @ Columbia (actual address 2120 Fordham, discovered and confirmed standing 5/17/18)
Jerry Joslin Elementary

The addition of these four sirens was the last major thing, siren-wise to happen in Austin until 1972. There were a few malfunctions here and there, but nothing horribly major. The worst that happened was the Hancock and Bull Creek unit going off intermittently for a half-hour on April 15, 1970.

By February of 1971, audible tests were down to once a quarter at 9:45am on the announced day, with silent tests occurring during the interim months.

The last test of the Austin – Travis County siren system was in May, 1972. After that, they slowly but surely started to remove and/or sell off the sirens. In 1986, one got a second life in the city of Mason. Unfortunately, a Sentry 15/20vxT replaced it a few years ago.

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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 2:00 pm 
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I am thoroughly impressed with the amount of research and information you brought forward. Great job! Now we know pretty much everything we could ever want to know about Austin.

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PostPosted: Sun May 20, 2018 5:38 pm 
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Do they have a system today? I know the university has a system of voice sirens on campus.


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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 1:52 am 
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siren fan wrote: *
Do they have a system today? I know the university has a system of voice sirens on campus.
Good question.
Unfortunately, they don’t. All the city has are the two lone inactive bolts, an STH on some government complex, and the UT system

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22:35 <FSThunderboltfan1000>: !?''.,':;()-/


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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 2:44 pm 
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I'm not sure if my 'bolt is a Houston or an Austin one. In fact part of it is from Fort Worth I believe also. I'll have to ask Jeff on that one. Also, happy birthday Jared!

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PostPosted: Mon May 21, 2018 11:53 pm 
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Whammy, yours is ex Fort Worth.
Thank you, kind sir, for the birthday wishes

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PostPosted: Tue May 22, 2018 6:15 pm 
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Jared H wrote: *
Whammy, yours is ex Fort Worth.
Thank you, kind sir, for the birthday wishes
You know my Thunderbolt better than me lol.

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