Tsunami sirens stay silent, sounding a miscommunication alert


IN A STATE DATA BASE. RIGHT NOW, IT’S NATIONAL TSUNAMI PREPAREDNESS WEEK. IT WAS MARCH 2011 THAT AN EARTHQUAKE IN JAPAN SPAWNED A TSUNAMI THAT CROSSED THE PACIFIC AND CAUSED $17 MILLION IN DAMAGE TO THE SANTA CRUZ HARBOR, VASTLY DIFFERENT FROM THE NOW-REPAIRED HARBOR AND DOCKS. THIS WEEK, EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS TEAMS ON THE CENTRAL COAST ARE MAKING SURE WE ARE PREPARED IF IT HAPPENS AGAIN. ONE SCIENTIST WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BELIEVES THE BIGGEST THREAT WOULD BE AN EARTHQUAKE, WHICH TRIGGERS A SUBTERRANEAN LANDSLIDE IN THE MONTEREY BAY. THAT COULD PRODUCE A VERY LARGE TSUNAMI WAVE, WITH ONLY A FEW MINUTES OF ADVANCE WARNING, IF ANY AT ALL. DAN: THREATS LIKE THESE, AND OTHER TSUNAMI SCENARIOS, ARE THE REASONS WHY THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE TESTS ITS ALERT SYSTEM EVERY YEAR. THEY GOT THE WARNING OUT AT 10:15 THIS MORNING, AND THAT MESSAGE WAS CARRIED ON LOCAL RADIO AND TELEVISION STATIONS. BUT WHILE THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAYS THEIR TEST WENT WELL THAT WASN’T THE CASE IN , MONTEREY COUNTY. A LOT OF PEOPLE WERE EXPECTING TO HEAR WARNING SIRENS THIS MORNING, BUT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. ACTION NEWS REPORTER CAITLIN CONRAD IS LIVE IN MONTEREY TO EXLPAIN. CAITLIN? CAITLIN: DAN, ACCORDING TO NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY MONTEREY, THE SIRENS AT THE NAVAL POST-GRADUATE SCHOOL WERE NEVER SCHEDULED FOR A TEST TODAY. MELINDA LARSON WITH PUBLIC AFFAIRS SAYS THE BASE CAN SOUND THE SIRENS ANYTIME THEY WANT TO OR AT THE REQUEST OF THE COUNTY, , HOWEVER, THE COUNTY’S EMERGENCY SERVICES MANAGER, SHERRIE COLLINS, SAYS THE COUNTY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SIRENS SOUNDING AT ALL. NOW, THESE SIRENS ARE VERY IMPORTANT. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES IN THE WHOLE COUNTY OF MONTEREY. WHEN I ASKED HOW PEOPLE WOULD KNOW ABOUT A TSUNAMI IF THE SIRENS DIDN’T GO OFF, OR IF PEOPLE WERE TOO FAR AWAY TO HEAR THEM, I GOT TWO DIFFERENT ANSWERS. THE FIRST ONE, PRETTY SIMPLE. IF YOU FEEL THE GROUND SHAKE, HEAD FOR HIGHER GROUND, BECAUSE A SIGNIFICANT LOCAL EARTHQUAKE COULD CAUSE A TSUNAMI. THE SECOND ANSWER IS THAT THE COUNTY HAS ANOTHER ALERT SYSTEM OUTSIDE OF THE SIRENS. THE OTHER WAY THAT YOU WOULD BE NOTIFIED IS THROUGH THE EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION SYSTEMS THAT WE HAVE, SO THAT’S EVERYTHING FROM ALERT MONTEREY, WHICH IS THE SYSTEM THAT PEOPLE CAN SET UP THEIR CELL PHONES ON. CAITLIN: COLLINS SAYS THE KEY TO THIS ALERT, THOUGH, WOULD BE HOW MUCH TIME THEY HAVE TO GET AN ALERT OUT. BUT, AS YOU HEARD, THE SCIENTISTS WITH THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAY WE MIGHT HAVE A WAVE THAT ARRIVES WITHIN MINUTES OF A LOCAL EARTHQUAKE. DAN: THANKS, CAITLIN. WERE THERE ANY OTHER PROBLEMS BESIDES JUST THE SIREN? CAITLIN: THERE WAS ANOTHER MISCOMMUNICATION. THE NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ON A SIMULATED CONFERENCE CALL, WHICH WOULD BRING IN ALL OF THE DECISION-MAKERS IN THE AREA TO MAKE SURE THAT IF THEY SOON ON THE HAPPENED, THE RIGHT CHAIN OF COMMAND WAS NOTIFIED. BUT THEY SAY THE PHONE NEVER RANG AT THE NAVAL POSTGRADUATE SCHOOL. WE ASKED ABOUT IT, THE COUNTY SAID THEY HAD THE WRONG PHONE NUMBER. THE CALL NEVER WENT THROUGH. THEY SAY THAT IS A PROBLEM THEY ARE WORKING ON SOLVING. DAN: THANKS, CAITLIN. THERE ARE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO BE PREPARED. NUMBER ONE, IF YOU FEEL AN EARTHQUAKE, HAD TO HIGHER GROUND. ALSO, KNOW WHETHER YOU ARE IN AN INUNDATION ZONE.

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