War-jittery Suitland residents flooded the Prince George's County Fire Department and the Maryland State Police barracks in Forestville with telephone calls yesterday after an air-raid siren malfunctioned and began a steady wail for almost an hour.
But it was no Scud missile attack, only a fuse problem with a 30-year-old civil defense siren atop a U.S. Census Bureau building on Suitland Road, said a spokesman with the county's Office of Emergency Preparedness.
The Fire Department took about 200 telephone calls, one dispatcher said. State police in Forestville got about a half dozen, including one very agitated woman who said she had lived through World War II in Germany and kept insisting she wanted to go to a bomb shelter, a spokeswoman said. Several people reported the alarm was coming from nearby Andrews Air Force Base.
Edward William Lent III, with the civil defense office, said the sirens, which are scattered throughout the county, are old and regularly malfunction, which is one reason the federal government has embarked on a removal program. Already, 66 of the 108 sirens that were placed in the county in the late 1950s and early 1960s have been dismantled in favor of the Emergency Broadcast System and other means to alert residents to real danger.