Tsunami Week: New tools to warn Alaskans of tsunami danger
If a wall of water came crashing toward Alaska, would the state be ready?
That’s the question to be answered at 10:15 Wednesday morning, when the National Weather Service (NWS) and Alaska’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will test the Tsunami Warning Communications System.
The NWS will also be testing a new version of their warning software that should help them get the word out faster in the event of a real tsunami.
“We really want to make sure our systems are functional in case of a real tsunami,” said Louise Fode, NWS warning coordination meteorologist.
The people who are most at risk of a real tsunami are those facing the Pacific Ocean.
“We mostly look for risk down here along the Aleutian chain, up through Prince William Sound is where we had some very damaging tsunamis in the ’64 earthquake, but also down through the panhandle as well,” Fode said.
The test will go out on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, on television and radio. The state emergency operation center will also individually call communities at risk.
“People in other areas, who are not at risk, may hear the tsunami warning and they need to know that it’s just a test and they don’t need to respond unless they want to practice their procedures,” she said, saying the test can be an opportunity to prepare at home, in order to avoid the natural panic that sets in if there is an actual emergency.
In the event of a real tsunami, the Tsunami Warning Center will issue an alert. The meteorologists at the NWS receive that alert and then it’s their responsibility to spread the word.
Until this year, that message had to be verbally recorded but the NWS hopes a new version of the software will be faster and more stable.
“During a real tsunami, instead of having to verbally record all of the warnings, we actually will hopefully be able to copy and paste the warning into the system,” Fode said.
They’ll find out Wednesday if the new version works as they expect.
“If there’s something that’s not working, we want to find out during the test, not during a real event,” said Fode.
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