Fifty new tsunami sirens installed by the Washington Emergency Management Division, including a dozen in Grays Harbor County, have completed the statewide tsunami siren network and will help make the coast a safer place.
The new All-Hazard Alert Broadcast (AHAB) sirens are filling critical gaps in the tsunami warning infrastructure. Without the funding from the Washington Legislature and the hard work and dedication of partners across Western Washington, completing the siren network could have taken another 20 years.
There are now 122 sirens on the Washington coast, which are run and maintained by the state. The state installed the first siren in 2005, and over the next 15 years, brought that number to 72. The last 50 sirens took about two years to install, which is an unprecedented achievement.
Hoquiam Mayor Ben Winkelman mentioned the newest siren in Hoquiam, near the Little Hoquiam Shipyard on Queen Avenue on the north end of the city, at Monday’s City Council meeting.
“The new tsunami sirens will be participating in their first monthly test in August, so you might hear what you might not ordinarily hear the first Monday of the month at noon,” he said. “You might hear some sirens on the north end of town near Broadway you might not have heard before.”
The tests the first Monday of every month begin with the Westminster chimes and a message in English and Spanish saying it’s only a test.
The AHAB tsunami sirens are intended to act as an outdoor tsunami alerting method for people and communities on or near the beach who may not otherwise have access to other official alerting methods via radio, TV or their smartphones.
This is especially helpful for “distant” tsunami events from places like Alaska, Japan or Southeast Asia. The tsunami sirens are not meant to be heard inside. Residents should invest in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radios to hear tsunami alerts while inside their homes.
The Washington Emergency Management Division coordinated with a number of partners to identify and fill the tsunami siren gaps for high risk communities. Local partners may decide on their own to add more sirens as the years progress.
“This lifesaving project brought together state agencies, tribal, county and city emergency management as well as other important stakeholders to ensure Washington’s coastal communities can be alerted in the event of a tsunami warning,” said Maximilian Dixon, the geologic hazards supervisor for the Washington Emergency Management Division.
Dixon also highlighted the work of Robert Purdom of the Emergency Management Division. Purdom has been directly in charge of the maintenance and installation of the sirens for many years and did unprecedented work to ensure the siren network was completed, choosing to delay retirement until he was able to see his job finished.
Dixon says the state’s attention now will be to improve tsunami evacuation route signage, as well as working with local officials on vertical tsunami evacuation structures.
New siren locations:
Aberdeen — West Huntley Street and the Bishop Athletic Complex in South Aberdeen; Lafayette Street on the east side of the Wishkah River.
Hoquiam — Queen Avenue, next to the Little Hoquiam Shipyard and the city’s Queen Pump Station on the north end of town.
Along the South Beach, sirens are up at Grayland Beach State Park, Ocean City State Park, Twin Harbors State Park, and Westport.
There is a new tower in Cosmopolis, and three in Ocean Shores: Central Water Reservoir, Vacuum Pump Station #6, Vacuum Pump Station #6.
In Pacific County, a third siren has been added at the Shoalwater Bay Tribe, which is currently constructing a vertical tsunami evacuation platform. Others are located at Ilwaco Marina; Long Beach Peninsula at Pacific Park and Cranberry Beach Road; and Long Beach Peninsula at Pacific Park and 145th Place.