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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

City Selects Tsunami Warning System that Is Cost Effective and Can Handle the Mission

• Council Approves National Weather Service Radio Warning Equipment that Delivers Multi-Hazard Info

BY BILL KOENEKER

A tsunami warning system for Malibu was approved by the Malibu City Council this week, after it agreed to purchase the transmitter equipment required to utilize the National Weather Service radio warning system.
The council had previously looked into the matter and turned down expensive systems, such as those used in Hawaii and had asked for further investigation by the staff.
Emergency Services Coordinator Brad Davis told council members Monday night that he had found an alternate and very popular warning system used by the NWS.
It is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information directly.
It also broadcasts warning and post-event information for all types of hazards, including earthquakes, chemical releases or oil spills, and other kinds of disasters.
The system, Davis explained to the council, requires a special radio receiver or scanner capable of picking up the signal.
Each radio, which costs between $30 and $50, is designed to sit quietly in the home or office and only goes on when an emergency alert is issued by the NWS.
The warnings are multi-hazard and are programmed to be specific to the user’s local area.
Malibu needs a suitable transmission site, which was found by the Weather Service’s recent studies, done at the behest of the city.
The site is located on Point Dume, which is the current location of the city’s AM radio transmitter, according to Davis.
Tests have concluded that this site would provide suitable coverage for homes along the coastline when linked to an existing NWS transmitter at Saddle Peak.
“The National Weather Service has asked if the city would agree to share the cost of providing such a system by providing funding for the transmitter equipment,” Davis told council members.
The cost would be $22,500 to purchase transmission equipment and a cabinet.
City Manager Jim Thorsen said, “Brad has come up with a solution that is very ingenious compared to the other systems that cost millions.”
Council members agreed that the system offered the solution and more since it broadcasts multi-disaster warnings.
There are still quite a few specifics to be addressed, such as the distribution of radios, would citizens be required to purchase a radio, and how would citizen response efforts, if any, be coordinated with city staff.
Malibu has more than its share of potential hazards, with wildfire much higher on the list than tsunamis, so a multi-hazard system has the potential to add an important tool for citizen notification.

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