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Calif. sheriff joins others in using Hi-Low siren to warn public of immediate evacation

San Diego law enforcement and fire agencies will use the unique siren to warn the public about natural disasters, SWAT standoffs and other evacuation incidents


San Diego County Sheriff’s Department/YouTube

By Yvette Urrea Moe
Reprinted with permission from the County News Center

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Sheriff’s Department rolled out its new siren system built into patrol vehicles that will emit a high, then low repeating siren tone which warns communities that they need to evacuate due to immediate danger.

The San Diego Sheriff’s Department joined other law enforcement agencies and fire agencies on May 4 to introduce the Hi-Low system to the public and explain how it will be used. The Hi-Lo siren is distinct from those used when emergency officials are responding to an emergency call.

Emergency agencies want people to associate the loud and distinct siren with an urgent evacuation.

The Sheriff’s Department notes they will only use this critical warning system to inform communities of an evacuation order in the event of natural disasters, extreme emergencies or critical incidents such as wildfires, flash floods, tsunamis, terrorism and bomb threats. It will be used also for SWAT standoffs, gas leaks, hazmat spills and sinkholes that pose a danger to the community.

Law enforcement just started installing the Hi-Lo system in Sheriff’s patrol vehicles, but because it will be a new siren, officials wanted to make sure the public understands what it means and what they need to do if they hear it.

“When you hear the Hi-Lo, it is time to go! Heed the warning and evacuate immediately because your safety depends on it,” it states in its public service announcement.

This will be one more emergency tool for the region. Traditional notification systems, such as AlertSanDiego phone calls, loudspeaker announcements and door-to-door notifications, will continue to be used.

Being prepared is key to staying safe. To learn more about preparing for emergencies and evacuations in an emergency, visit