Tsunami test across coastal Alaska Wednesday morning

By March 24, 2015 March 26th, 2015 Science & Tech, Search & Rescue

Wednesday morning, shortly after 10 o’clock, the state will be testing the tsunami warning system around coastal Alaska. The drill, according to the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s Jeremy Zidek, is part of the state’s Tsunami Preparedness Week.

“Communities in tsunami-vulnerable areas will receive those warnings through NOAA weather radio, local television and radio stations. It will be like that normal required monthly test,” he said. “It will sound similar to that, except in this particular case we’re going to be using those live codes. We want to make sure they work when there’s an actual tsunami.”

If all goes as planned, you should hear the message on any radio station you’re listening to, and on television. But Zidek says there is one caveat.

“Some television viewers might not hear the audio message if their televisions are turned down. In those cases they will see an actual tsunami warning message,” Zidek said. “The audio will say it is a test message, but if they’re not listening and they’re only watching, they may think it’s an actual tsunami warning.”

He said the state is trying extra hard to get the word out about the drill in tsunami-prone areas, such as Kodiak and other coastal areas, so it doesn’t cause undue concern among residents. Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican said the city’s tsunami siren drill will be held at its normal time of 2 p.m. on Wednesday, also to keep confusion at a minimum.

Zidek also points out that this drill will be interactive.

“We’re asking that people go to ready.alaska.gov, fill out a short survey, so we know what station they were listening to, where they heard the message. Maybe they didn’t hear it, and that’s useful information for us as well. We can go back and remedy those problems,” he said. “Perhaps the message came through, but they couldn’t understand the audio. That’s all information that we can take. We’ll work with the broadcasters, make the system better.”

The survey will be available after the test happens, but he welcomed visitors to poke around and find out how they can become better prepared for emergencies, both natural and man-made. And that’s good advice for anyone living in Kodiak, which has been laid low by volcanic eruption, earthquakes, tsunamis, and oil spills in its history.

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