Council Agenda Item – 2012/01/10 Report Date 2012/01/06 File: 0550-04 EPC
To: Braden Smith, CAO From: Eric Graham, Emergency Program Coordinator SUBJECT: Emergency notification systems update
RECOMMENDATION THAT: Council receives this report for information and discussion
I concur with the recommendation.
The purpose of this report is to provide an Emergency Preparedness status update with respect to the Tsunami Siren test of January 5th, 2012 and the District wide emergency notification system (OneCall).
TSUNAMI SIREN TEST The tsunami siren test went according to schedule and was well received by the public. The sirens were tested separately due to an issue with the amplifiers (see below).Two representatives from the tsunami siren manufacturer (Federal Signal/Adanac Sales) arrived in Tofino a day prior to the tests in order to ensure that the system would be online and provide basic training for EP staff on the operation and maintenance of the system.
Each tsunami siren consists of four separate sirens and an amplifier for each siren. Of the eight amplifiers shipped to the District, 4 were found to be faulty and inoperable. The technician reported that the fault was probably due to damage occurred during shipping. It was also recognized that the amps were an older model and should be replaced at no
cost to us. Eight new amplifiers are being shipped to replace all of the existing ones immediately to resolve this issue. District staff was instructed on how to install the amplifiers and will mount the new units on the sirens once they are delivered.
After servicing the sirens, the next step was to prepare the base station unit at the Emergency Operations Centre. While attempting to send radio signals or communicate to each site (siren), it was found that the only decent signal getting through was the installation at Cox Bay. Due to the topography, line of sight radio communication to the North Chesterman siren was unsuccessful. However, it was possible to use the Cox Bay site as a ‘repeater’ to activate the North Chesterman siren.
As is, the system can only be activated by an operator at the base station (Emergency Operations Centre) which means that there must be an operator in proximity to the EOC to activate the sirens immediately during an emergency. Staff have asked for more information about remote activation options in order that the sirens can be remotely activated by EP staff or hooked into a wider warning system.
An informal survey was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the two sirens throughout the District. The survey asks if the sirens were heard, the location that they were heard from and a scale rating regarding volume. Preliminary results indicate that of the 20 respondents 76% did hear the sirens; the majority of the responses were located around the Chesterman Beaches, the downtown core and Mackenzie Beach.
Staff have received comments via facebook, twitter, phone and in-person. A number of residents indicated concerns with the sound of the wail tone; many residents felt that it sounded quite similar to an emergency vehicle siren. Staff recommends testing a variety of siren tones in order to choose a tone that has a more distinct emergency sound and possibly implement regular system testing of the sirens during the next few months to familiarize EP staff with the operation of equipment and reduce lag time prior to activation.
A number of other residents have mentioned that they were not able to hear the siren from inside their homes. Tsunami sirens are primarily outdoor warning systems and are not meant to be relied upon to alert residents within their homes. This concern highlights the reasoning behind employing more than one type of notification system. Systems like the tsunami sirens, One Call, website bulletins, local and social media work best in combination when preparing for and responding to hazard events.
CALL ONE Now that the tsunami sirens have had their first test, EP is working to build our database of residents’ contact information in order to utilize our One Call Now notification service. This service will disseminate emergency messages for the District of Tofino to all who are registered.
Therefore, the next step is to get all residents of Tofino registered in the system. Staff proposes to use social media, the website, newspapers, Co-op boards, the radio, and
word of mouth to get the message out and get people registered.
The process will be for an individual to contact the District through by email, including last name, phone number and street address, at email@example.com or by visiting the Village office. Once a person has registered their name, street address and primary phone number they will be able to go to our website, click on the One Call banner and add alternate phone numbers and email accounts.
The intent is that the next time that we test the Tsunami siren, we will also test the One Call system and try to identify gaps in coverage. The next siren test will take place sometime in the early spring.
_________________________________ Eric Graham Emergency Program Coordinator