Blaine and Birch Bay advance emergency response efforts with new alert sirens, training

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is ramping up efforts to prepare Blaine and Birch Bay for an emergency.

As early as next week, two new All Hazards Alert Broadcast (AHAB) sirens are slated to crop up in both locations. Additionally, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) are scheduled to offer an eight-session basic response training in Birch Bay.

“The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office takes the protection of the citizens of Whatcom County as part of our dedication to making Whatcom County the safest in the state through excellence in public safety,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo. “The installation of these sirens, along with the CERT training we are providing for the Blaine, Birch Bay and Semiahmoo area underscore the importance of emergency
preparedness.”

Installation of both AHAB sirens will begin the week of April 17, according to a statement released by the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management.

The sirens, also known as tsunami warning sirens, are capable of voice and tone alerts and can be controlled by state officials, emergency services personnel and the fire district. The sirens can be pre-programmed to warn of hazards, such as an earthquake or chemical spill, and must be routinely tested.

The effort to install a siren in Birch Bay has been years in the making and is being funded by a $50,000 grant from Phillips 66. The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office division of emergency management and the Whatcom Community Foundation are partnering to install the siren, which will be fixed to a 65-foot-high pole at 7954 Birch Bay Drive, the site of the new community park location.

“Due to the cultural sensitives of the area, Whatcom County has hired an archeologist recommended by the Lummi Nation, and both the Lummi Nation and Semiahmoo First Nation have been invited to observe,” according to the statement. “The location was chosen as it provides as near complete coverage as possible for Birch Bay.”

Blaine’s siren will be 50 feet tall and will stand adjacent to the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility, located along Marine Drive. Funding for the project was awarded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program and the Washington State Military Department.

Both sirens will join an array of signage identifying tsunami evacuation routes and hazard zones that are already located throughout Blaine and Birch Bay.

In the weeks ahead, residents are also invited to take part in an eight-session CERT Basic Training Class, April 14 to June 2 from 3 to 6 p.m. Participants conduct hands-on exercises in a classroom setting and are invited to demonstrate their skills on live victims of a simulated disaster.

The course takes place at the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue service station 63, located at 4581 Birch Bay-Lynden Road; it costs $50 and can be paid at the first class session with cash or check. Contact program manager Greg Hope to register at ghope@co.whatcom.wa.us.


Note from the editor: The original version of this story misstated that the eight-week training course was free to the public. It’s $50 to attend. We regret the error. 

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