Tsunami alarm system to sound across the state October 21

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A tsunami alert will sound off throughout Washington state at 10:21 a.m. on Thursday, October 21. 

The alert will be a wailing sound and will last one minute, said John Gargett, deputy director of Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Division of Emergency Management. The alarm is different than the Westminster chimes used during monthly tsunami tests. An actual tsunami alarm would sound for over an hour, Gargett said.

“The sound carries somewhat dependent upon weather,” Gargett said in an email to The Northern Light. “Usually people in the 1-2 mile area around a siren can hear it, but weather can increase that up to 3 miles.”

The tsunami alert is part of The Great Washington ShakeOut, which is one of the world’s largest earthquake and tsunami drills and takes place the third Thursday in October, according to The Great ShakeOut website. 

Across the state, the installation of new sirens will mean many more people will now hear the alarm, according to a WCSO press release. There are five new sirens in Whatcom County: the Semiahmoo Marina, Birch Bay State Park, Sandy Point, Lummi Bay Market, and Fairhaven. 

WCSO is asking that people not call 911 during the test. People can use the event to evaluate their earthquake preparedness and determine where they would go during an evacuation.

In the case of an actual tsunami, residents should follow the closest evacuation route inland or to high ground as soon as they hear the wailing alert. If the ground is shaking on the coast, people should drop, cover and hold on until the shaking stops. People should follow the closest tsunami evacuation route once the ground stops shaking.

More information on evacuation maps and tsunami sirens is available at mil.wa.gov/tsunami. The Washington Emergency Management Division will answer questions on earthquakes on facebook.com/WashEMD, at 12 p.m. October 21 and will answer earthquake questions by email at public.education@mil.wa.gov. Although registration isn’t required, people can register at shakeout.org/washington.

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