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Tsunami warning system to include donated Umatilla sirens

Fire Chief Tim Demers looks over the six donated sirens stored in a warehouse at the Warrenton Marina. The sirens will go on top of the city's fire stations. (Cindy Yingst)
By Cindy Yingst, Friday, April 6, 2018

A pivotal piece of community safety is locked away in a warehouse at the Warrenton Marina.

But soon, two emergency sirens will stand guard over the city, alerting residents when tsunamis are eminent.

“One of the things we’re trying to stress to people is that, individually, they’re responsible for being prepared,” City Manager Linda Engbretson said.

The sirens will help them know when it’s time to put all the things they’ve prepared for into action.

The warning sirens came from the Umatilla Chemical Depot, a U.S. Army site that stored chemical weapons until it was decommissioned in 2011. The sirens meant to warn inland residents of a toxic chemical release were dismantled and sent to coastal counties to use as tsunami warning systems.

The cities of Cannon Beach, Seaside and Gearhart have sirens already, but Warrenton was the last entity without. “We believe having a redundant thing in place is never a bad idea,” said Tiffany Brown, Clatsop County emergency services manager. “This will provide greater continuity in the county.”

The county applied for a state Homeland Security Grant at the end of January, hoping to win money for the $15,000-per-siren installation cost. One will go on the roof at the downtown fire station and the other at the Hammond fire station.

Some people are less than enthusiastic about having sirens in the city, viewing them as older technology.

“I don’t think they’re World War II era, but they’re close,” Fire Chief Tim Demers admits. Still, “if you don’t do anything, nothing’s going to work.”

A third siren could go in at Fort Stevens State Park, a 4,300-acre recreational park with more than 500 campsites.

“You start thinking about our summer population and there’s a whole separate city there and at KOA,” Demers said.

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