New tsunami warning horn installed in Edmonds

Workers put finishing touches on the new tsunami warning siren at the foot of Dayton Street.

Workers added finishing touches Thursday morning on the latest addition to the Edmonds waterfront – a state-of-the-art All Hazard Alert Broadcast (AHAB) tsunami warning siren atop a 40-foot pole at the foot of Dayton Street adjacent to the fishing pier.

This is one of 121 such warning sirens being installed and funded by the state in high-risk locations throughout Washington’s inner and outer coastal areas. This map shows the locations for tsunami sirens as of Oct. 15, 2020 (Edmonds’ siren was just installed and so is not on the map).

According to the Washington Emergency Management Division, these sirens are intended as an outdoor alert for people on or near the beach who may not have access to other alerting methods. They have an audible range of approximately one mile which can vary depending on topography, wind direction, and physical barriers such as trees and buildings.

When an actual tsunami warning is issued, the sirens play a wailing sound (click here to listen to what it sounds like) followed by a voice message in English and Spanish instructing listeners to evacuate immediately to high ground.

To ensure the system is working properly, the state will conduct regular tests. Monthly testing will happen at noon on the first Monday of every month, when the siren will play a Westminster Chime (click here to listen to what it sounds like). The sirens are also tested once a year on the third Thursday in October with the actual wail sound in conjunction with the Great Washington ShakeOut. For this yearly test, the wail sound is followed by a voice message in English and Spanish explaining that it is only a test.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

  1. This seems like a half-measure. When the siren goes off, where are people supposed to go? How far upslope? The Pacific Northwest Seismic Network inundation maps ( choose the Puget Sound maps, Admiralty Inlet sub-region) show most of Edmonds’ coast as unquantified in terms of tsunami inundation, but the places they do quantify in the region all have <4' of tsunami inundation. Under most tidal conditions that won't even reach Railroad Ave (10-11' ASL according to Google Earth.)
    For these sirens to be of any use, we need evacuation route signs along the beach and we need a sense of where a "safe zone" is. The last thing we need is people clambering over the fence onto the train tracks.
    If the city has any control over it, given our demographics, having the speaker announce in Korean and/or Chinese would be a good addition.

  2. Thanks for this information Brian.

    The City’s website has a “Disaster Preparedness” webpage which states that our region ranks high for the chance of a natural disaster and that earthquakes, flooding, landslides and winter storms can all create hazards and community chaos.

    The webpage states that we have a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) in place for such disasters.

    I became concerned that our CEMP was not functional or up to date following the Sunday afternoon City Council meeting on March 22, 2020.

    City Council approved Ordinance 4177 that day, an Ordinance containing two references to the Emergency Services Coordinating Agency (ESCA) in City Code Chapter 6.60. ESCA disbanded on December 31, 2015.

    As I researched this, I discovered that concerns about the CEMP’s functionality were discussed during the December 15, 2015 City Council Meeting. I learned that our CEMP had not been updated since it was adopted via Resolution 1386 on April 18, 2017. Resolution 1386 clearly states that Washington State law requires the CEMP to be reviewed and updated at least once every two calendar years. It is now June 2021 and we have not seen a new CEMP since April 2017.

    At the end of the May 5, 2020 City Council discussion of City Code Chapter 6.60, Councilmember Susan Paine stated that August would be an opportune time if it is available to “meet” the new CEMP as the Emergency Management Policy.

    That never happened and Council President Susan Paine has chosen to not respond to my emails since September 3, 2020, including many emails related to the CEMP and City Code Chapter 6.60. I have been unable to find out when ESCA will be removed from City Code Chapter 6.60 or when a new CEMP will be presented to Council for approval.

    Related to this, I spoke at the June 3, 2021 Washington State Emergency Management Council meeting and stated my concern that my City does not have a functional emergency management plan. I requested steps be taken to make sure the citizens of Edmonds are protected as soon as possible by a functional CEMP.

  3. Unfortunately, when alert systems such as this are installed, the prevailing response is all too often, “Problem addressed, problem solved”. This system is necessary not only for its obvious warning capability, but more importantly to bring focus and discussion to the “what ifs? and what thens?” The stark absence of an updated, practiced, useable and collaborative Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan speaks volumes. “Nothing bad ever happens here in Pleasant Valley”. Computer models are just that. Models. They are hypothetical. Japan has the best planning in the world. Mostly based on models. Their “3/11” event resulted in nearly 20K deaths. What seems apparent is there is little concern here for disaster readiness. The Tsunami Alert Tower should stimulate the discussion and planning. Not end it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.