Thursday’s tsunami siren test part of a system upgrade

After a tsunami warning triggered by last week’s powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake, the sirens that went off Thursday afternoon in Kodiak made some people understandably nervous.

Normally, the sirens sound-off every Wednesday afternoon for two minutes. But this Wednesday, they didn’t work properly. The problem?  An upgrade to the Kodiak Police Department’s radio dispatch system.

Kodiak’s Police Chief Tim Putney says there was short notice for Thursday’s test, because it had to be done before the out-of-town technicians, who installed the new equipment, left Kodiak. Putney says radio frequencies activate the sirens.

“Wednesday at 2 o’clock during the normal test, they weren’t quite tuned up correctly to be able to talk to each other and relay the message to activate all the sirens,” Putney said.

Chief Putney says there are still more bugs in the system to shake down, all part of laying the groundwork for twenty new sirens, to be installed in a few weeks. Putney says Kodiak should expect some changes.

“They’re going to sound differently,” said Putney, who said people will have to get used to listening to different tones.

Waiting out the July 21st tsunami warning in the Kodiak High School parking lot.

He says last week’s tsunami warning was a reminder of how important alert systems are. Although the old one worked during the warning, Putney believes it’s no longer reliable and has become increasingly “hit and miss.” He also says the system is hard to fix, because it’s run by an outdated DOS computer program from the 1980’s.

The police chief says the new digital technology will be easier to maintain. During tests, dispatchers will be able to tell if a siren has malfunctioned by looking at a computer screen. The new system can also be used to broadcast recorded messages during emergencies.


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