Birch Bay to get tsunami warning system

By Steve Guntli

Phillips 66 has donated $50,000 to fund an emergency warning system for Birch Bay.

The company is teaming up with the Whatcom Community Foundation and the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office division of emergency management to install the warning system. The all-hazard alert broadcast, or AHAB, will be used to notify Birch Bay residents of natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

AHAB is a single unit or network of warning sirens used to warn those who are outside or in close proximity to a siren. It has a range up to 1.5 miles. AHAB sirens cannot always be heard when people are inside or asleep. It is being used in addition to existing warning sirens already in place at Sandy Point, Point Roberts and other locations throughout the county.

Kent Catlin, deputy director for the division of emergency management, said his staff is currently looking into suitable locations for the AHAB system.

“We are looking for public locations,” he said. “Currently the state has a contractor running tests on the best locations. These locations include areas within Birch Bay State Park and property owned by the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District.”

Catlin expects the system will be up and running next year.

The AHAB system is one of several public safety projects funded by Phillips 66. In addition to the AHAB system, Phillips 66 gave $25,000 for security upgrades for the Boys & Girls Club of Whatcom County, and $41,000 to United Way to fund programs for child and spousal abuse prevention. The company also donated $50,000 to the Northwest Straits Foundation, which will use the grant to remove derelict fishing gear from the Salish Sea.

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