Heads up, Manila. A tsunami drill taking place tomorrow is going to make for a noisy morning, with sheriff's deputies and Arcata Fire Department trucks making their way through neighborhoods there while sounding hi-lo evacuation sirens.
To be clear, this is only a drill.
“Humboldt County is prone to a variety of natural and human-caused disasters,” said Ryan Derby, the county’s Office of Emergency Services manager. “Your best tool to effectively respond to and recover from a disaster is your personal preparedness.”
The drill begins around 9:30 a.m. and residents are being asked to make their way to higher ground in the dunes on the west side of the highway when they hear the sirens as part of a practice evacuation for a local quake with prolonged, intense shaking. Under that scenario, time is of the essence, with the potential for destructive surges to breach beaches in minutes.
The county's Office of Emergency Services will also be testing out the Zonehaven AWARE system, a new mapping tool for first responders that categorizes Humboldt County neighborhoods into specific zones to determine evacuations areas in the event of an emergency.
The Manila drill is part of Tsunami Preparedness Week and the countywide Tsunami Warning Communications Test follows on March 23, starting at 9 a.m., with OES testing the local warning system: Humboldt Alert.
Residents who are signed up will receive notifications on their cellphone, landline, or email. That will be followed at 11 a.m. by the National Weather Service running a test of the Emergency Alert System, with alerts being sent out via radio and TV broadcasts, NOAA weather radio and reverse 911 calls. In some areas, tsunami sirens may be activated and people on the coast may hear test broadcasts from planes.
During last years's test, nearly half of the county's 12 sirens remained silent
after being "corroded to oblivion" by years of exposure to salt air and the North Coast's notoriously wet weather. The Journal
's March 10 cover story "Icons of Preparedness," looks at the cost vs. the benefit of replacing the sirens, as well as whether the devices are as effective as cellphone alerts and other warning systems, as local emergency officials weigh the options moving forward.