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Sirens to warn people of lahars failed test Monday. Pierce County says they’re fixed now


Pierce County’s monthly test of sirens meant to warn residents in the event of lahars from an eruption of Mount Rainier failed during a test this week.

The All Hazard Alert Broadcast sirens are tested for about five minutes at noon on the first Monday of every month.

Most of the county’s sirens are activated by satellite because it is the most secure method currently available, Pierce County’s communications director Libby Catalinich told The News Tribune.

To activate the system, an employee presses a button which sends a signal over the internet to the satellite, which then transmits a signal to the siren receivers.

The satellite communications company, SkyWave, changed the codes to access the satellites recently. While the alert and warning coordinator input the codes into the system, one of the codes failed, Catalinich said.

The failed code meant none of the 34 sirens sounded Monday.

The sirens are now fully functional, Catalinich said.

Sirens line the Puyallup River valley, extending from Orting to the Port of Tacoma. Pierce County plans to add eight sirens in the Carbon and Nisqually river valleys, Catalinich said.

In addition to the sirens, the county has a system a network of sensors planted underground to detect lahars. The sensors measure ground vibrations and alert emergency notification centers, where messages trigger immediate emergency response.

Cities in the Puyallup valley would be in the direct path of lahars flowing from Mount Rainier.

Orting Mayor Josh Penner said it’s concerning there was a failure, but he’s relieved the county told residents.

“This is proactive,” Penner said. “This time around they’re letting us know they were looking into it.”

The last siren trouble was Dec. 3, 2018, Catalinich said. There was a delay due to transmission issues with the satellite and a technical glitch.

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