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Tsunami warning system tested Wednesday
Published: 03/25/2013 17:25:00
Updated: 03/27/2013 11:48:29

Officials and broadcasters across the state tested the Alaska Tsunami Warning System this Wednesday shortly after 9:45 AM on TV and radio. The test was targeted to the southern coast of Alaska from the Canadian border to the end of the Aleutian Islands.

The test was a joint project of the National Weather Service, the Alaska Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management, and the Alaska Broadcasters Association. It was designed to ensure that tsunami warnings can be quickly and reliably delivered to the public in the case of danger.

The test is part of Tsunami Preparedness Week this week which is timed to coincide with the 1964 "Good Friday" earthquake. In a proclamation on March 15th, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell (R) reminded Alaskans "to plan for tsunamis, educate themselves on the appropriate response to tsunami warnings, and to follow those warnings when they occur."

To ensure that all people in a tsunami affected area are warned, alerts are sent statewide, which can often cause confusion to inland viewers. On Wednesday state emergency management officials tested the possibility to target an alert to just the southern coast of the state which is at most risk from tsunamis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates tsunami warning centers in Palmer, Alaska and in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. The centers is taking part in a larger exercise on Wednesday that simulates a large tsunami across the pacific.

The only way to thoroughly test the alerting system is to use the same "live" code issued for a real warning. While the audio message of the test alert notified listeners that it was a only a test, crawls on TV screens are generated automatically from the alert code and can't differentiate from a real activation. Some coastal tsunami sirens were also planned activate as they would during a real warning without indicating that it's just a test.

NOAA's Weather Radio also carried the test. The warning lights and siren in the radios in the alerting area activated, and the test message was transmitted. NOAA Weather Radio uses dedicated frequencies to broadcast weather information 24/7 to special receivers which can have battery backup to continue operating during power outages and other emergencies. The radios can be set to turn on automatically and sound an alarm when the special alert codes for emergency or sever weather information are transmitted.

You can see a video of a weather radio at KATH-TV in Juneau activating for the test on the left of this page.

The public is asked to provide feedback of their experiences during the test at the ready.alaska.gov website linked below.

http://ready.alaska.gov/survey

By: Mikko Wilson - mikko@kath.tv