By Stefanie Donahue
A 50-foot-tall emergency siren may soon crop up along Marine Drive thanks to Blaine planning commissioners who voted to approve a crucial project permit last month.
On January 26, commissioners voted 4–1 to approve a permit for the project, which is being led by the city of Blaine public safety department. Now awaiting shoreline permits from the Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and a build permit down the road, community planner Alex Wenger predicts the siren could be installed as early as March.
The project is being funded through a $47,900 federal grant that was awarded to the county. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management and the state’s Emergency Management Division are responsible for allocating the funds, said Blaine’s public safety department director Mike Haslip.
“If we don’t install it here, it’s going to go to another community in Whatcom County,” Haslip said.
Technically referred to as All Hazard Alert Broadcast (AHAB) systems, the sirens already are installed in Sandy Point and Point Roberts. Bellingham and Birch Bay are next to join the list.
Once the permit is received, the siren will be installed on a 50-foot pole next to the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility on Marine Drive.
Planners also intend to sprinkle in a few evergreen trees around the structure to mask its appearance, according to the staff report.
The AHAB system can be used by state officials, emergency services personnel and the fire district to warn the public of a tsunami, earthquake or other potential hazard.
Wenger said the alerts could be heard as far away as Semiahmoo spit; the system will be tested and sounded for 30 seconds on the first Wednesday of each month.