Although Curry County’s commissioners recently voted unanimously to discontinue operation of the county’s 17 tsunami sirens, Del Norte County officials said they’ll continue using local tsunami sirens for now.

Keeping tsunami sirens has been a topic of debate in coastal communities for quite some time, said Kymmie Scott, emergency services manager for Del Norte County.  

In a presentation to the Curry commissioners July 24 in Port Orford, county Emergency Services Manager Jeremy Dumire pointed to the condition of existing sirens, the costs to maintain them, and why they’re no longer the best technology to deploy as a tsunami-warning system.

The commissioners subsequently voted Aug. 7 to discontinue using the sirens for emergency warnings.

Dumire recommended discontinuing the use of the World War II air-raid sirens in favor of newer technology and more-reliable options.

Although Scott has heard the arguments both for keeping and for discontinuing the tsunami sirens, she said it’s best to have multiple methods to reach people in an emergency.

The alternatives for a warning-siren system – door-to-door contact, and modern technology such as telephones and electronic alerts – are much less expensive and likely more reliable than the sirens, according to the Curry County commissioners’ resolution.

The tsunami sirens are expensive to keep in operation. Given their location on the coast, saltwater wears on them over the years, causing extensive damage. While Del Norte County officials understand the cost and maintenance of the tsunami sirens, they said still find them valuable and will keep them at present.

Scott added, however, that Del Norte County will evaluate each year whether the sirens’ cost outweighs the benefits.

The county currently uses several systems to broadcast emergency messages. Just as in Curry County, Del Norte makes use of the Everbridge program, which Scott describes as a reverse-911 system. They also use radio and social media, in addition to the tsunami sirens

With the Everbridge program, community members sign up to receive emergency notifications, so it alerts only those already living in the county. It would offer little help to tourists or other visitors, said officials here.

“In some communities, people are relying more on new systems and moving away from sirens, but there’s a benefit to having sirens because they let people know in those low-lying areas, and especially people that may not be in our community,” Scott said.

Tourists can also sign up for FEMA alerts and the National Wireless Emergency Alert System, through which many people have received presidential alert tests. Those who have not received a presidential alert can contact their carrier to learn how to activate it by telephone.

To sign up for emergency alerts, visit Del Norte County Alert System at http://www.co.del-norte.ca.us/news/delnortecommunityalertsystem. To see whether your address will be affected by either a distant or local tsunami, enter your address at nvs.nanoos.org/TsunamiEvac.

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