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Beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County will once again conduct siren testing at the Material Disposal Area B (MDA B) located along DP Road.
“The test we conducted on May 26 provided some valuable data and feedback,” said Los Alamos County Emergency Management Specialist Phil Taylor. “As a result, we need to adjust volume and alter one of the alert patterns.”
Regarding the siren, Taylor wants the public to know that if during the excavation process, a highly unlikely but potentially serious event were to occur such as a fire or explosion that might breach the enclosure, allowing a release of contaminated materials into the atmosphere, that the purpose of the siren is to alert folks to take some precautionary protective actions.
“The siren should alert people in the immediate vicinity of the worksite to shelter in place,” he said. “That means to stay inside a building or if outside to go inside a building, shut the doors and windows and secure air intakes, outside ventilation and air conditioners. You should have a reliable AM radio and tune it to AM 1610 to listen for updates, situation reports and instructions.”
The siren patterns are as follows:
• Alert Tone: 15-second hi/lo pattern followed by a “take shelter immediately” voice message;
• All-clear Tone: 15-second steady pattern followed by a “resume normal activities” voice message; and
• Monthly test: brief “bell/chimes” pattern.
“We’re certainly not trying to alarm the citizens,” Taylor said. “We’re simply being prudent.”
In any kind of remediation work, there exists the potential for a wide range of unplanned events occurring.
At the low end, that unplanned event could be a worker sustaining a minor injury on the job. On the extreme end, there could be a serious event such as a fire or explosion. Emergency responders must be prepared for all contingencies.
In the case of MDA B, because of its close proximity to local businesses and residences, there is an elevated public concern. The best way to mitigate that concern is to be informed, be aware and be prepared, he said.
In addition to re-testing the MDA B siren, the county will also utilize its Everbridge mass notification system.
“There were several issues with the callout on May 26,” Taylor said. “Some folks deleted the message immediately thinking it was either a telemarketer or political advertisement.”
Taylor said that for the test callout scheduled Wednesday, he will record the message himself and send it out several minutes in advance of the siren test.
“The call recipient will hear my voice stating that ‘this is an important message from Los Alamos County…please listen to the message in its entirety.’”
Citizens will still be prompted to “press 1.” This prompting should be eliminated once a global software change is implemented within the next few months, Taylor said. “We’re simply making improvements to the system,” he said. “That’s why we do these drills.”
Taylor also reminds residents that they can register their cell phones and email addresses by opting into the Everbridge system through the county’s emergency management Web site at www.losalamosnm.us/emo/Pages/default.aspx and click on the Citizen Alert signup button.