Local radio and cable stations successfully tested the Emergency Alert System at 7:06 a.m. today. The system is designed to automatically trigger an alert if there is a warning of a tsunami or other natural disaster.
"It worked!" KCYS' Dave Heick said.
The system failed during the recent tsunami scare June 14. An earthquake in California triggered a tsunami warning, but the alert system did not work. KCYS was one of the few stations to publish a tsunami warning. Heick said the station received the warning from an online U.S. Geological Service program.
Heick said he initiated the test this morning by sending out a digital code each station is set up to automatically receive. This is similar to the warning the stations should receive from Oregon Public Broadcasting when there is an emergency. If the station's receiver worked properly, the code started an emergency alert.
"That's what didn't happen on the 14th," Heick said.
All Charter cable systems participated. The TV stations shift to a blue screen, then a computer-generated graphic while a news bulletin is read.
The radio stations sounded three buzzes, a two-tone alert, the text of an emergency message and three more buzzes. Radio stations that took part in the test are: KCYS (98.1 FM), KCBZ (96.5 FM), KSWB (840 AM), KCRX (102.3 FM), KMUN (91.9 FM), KAST FM (92.9), KAST AM (1370), KAQX (94.3 FM), KVAS (103.9 FM) and KKEE (1230 AM).
"When the system works right, we can get a lot of information out to a lot of people really fast," Heick said. He got phone calls from viewers who said their TV station told them to call the radio. This confirmed that the system worked, Heick said.
"A tsunami warning is not an evacuation notice," Heick cautioned the public. Radio and TV stations also do evacuation notices when requested by the sheriff's office, Heick said.
A tsunami warning does indicate a tsunami is imminent and people along the coast should prepare for flooding.
Clatsop County Emergency Service Director Gene Strong is working on a system where with the push of one button, the sheriff's office can take over all local broadcasts for 25 to 40 seconds to announce an emergency.
Strong said this morning's test was successful. "It's a community effort," he said. "We all need to work together." He feels all the stations are cooperating to the fullest.
"When we were called on to actually perform, it was a big wake-up call," Heick said. "We're gonna be better."
Besides the public broadcasting system, radio stations are set up to receive an alert directly from the National Weather Service. That alert did not happen June 14 because of problems with the transceiver in Naselle, Wash.
Weather Service employee Bill Flieder said the organization is replacing phone lines between its Portland office and the Coast Guard station at the Warrenton airport within the next week or two. The Coast Guard currently directs the alert to the Naselle station, as well as a station in Tillamook County. Flieder said the new system will send the signal directly to Tillamook County, to eliminate possible problems with the Coast Guard system.
Crews will replace the antenna on the transceiver, although Flieder said a date has not been set. If there are still problems with the phone lines, the weather service will consider installing a radio link at the airport, but Flieder does not expect any problems with the Coast Guard equipment that cannot be resolved.
Flieder said the weather service is looking for funds to install a more powerful transceiver on Naselle Ridge. This should help reception, which is a problem for much of the coast, Flieder said.
"We're trying to scare up the money for that and I think it'll happen," he said, apparently not intending a pun.