Did you hear the siren? Tests to sound each month

Blaine AHAB siren.

By Stefanie Donahue

If you heard the hum of Westminster chimes early this week, you weren’t alone.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office completed its first test of the newly installed All Hazards Alert Broadcast (AHAB) sirens at noon on May 1. To ensure operational readiness, the systems will be tested on the first Monday of the month at noon.

Birch Bay AHAB siren.

Also called tsunami warning sirens, the sky-high contraptions are capable of voice and tone alerts and are 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.

According to the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, tests will consist of Westminster chimes followed by a voice announcement. Sirens in Point Roberts, Sandy Point and the Lummi Nation are tested at the same time.

The tests are not indicative of the tones used during an emergency. For a tsunami evacuation, the siren will sound a 90-second “wail” and evacuation announcement on a loop, with the message, “Tune into your local radio station for further instructions,” sprinkled throughout.

“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,” said Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo.

The siren in Birch Bay will provide almost complete coverage of the area, while the Blaine siren is estimated to reach low-lying areas of downtown and the Semiahmoo peninsula.

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