Siren testing on DP Road

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LANL and Los Alamos County will conduct testing on Wednesday

By Special to the Monitor

Beginning at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Los Alamos County will  conduct siren testing at the Material Disposal Area B (MDA B) located along DP Road.  

“LANL has recently installed a portable siren at MDA B to alert site workers and the public to possible emergencies that may arise during the mitigation work taking place within the enclosure,” said Phil Taylor, Emergency Management Specialist for Los Alamos County. “We’d like to hear what the siren sounds like.”

When asked what sorts of emergencies might trigger the activation of the siren, Taylor explained that while the excavation work is being accomplished by highly skilled workers utilizing advanced equipment, and they’re performing the excavation in accordance with tightly-controlled, strict protocols, “nonetheless, we have to be prepared for any type of emergency response. This is an industrial site. These folks are removing things from a dumpsite that’s been buried for 60 years. That’s why the contractors have erected an enclosure equipped with a filtration system – to minimize risk to the public.”

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.  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:  a 15-second hi/lo pattern followed by a “take shelter immediately” voice message

All-clear Tone: a 15-second steady pattern followed by a “resume normal activities” voice message

Monthly test: a 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.

In the run-up to the excavation work, both LANL and Los Alamos County have conducted several drills and exercises simulating various worst case scenarios at MDA B, and have closely examined evacuation versus shelter-in-place.  

Further compounding difficulties would be numerous emergency vehicles from Los Alamos Fire Department and LANL HAZMAT trying to gain entry into the DP Road corridor.  “These serious traffic issues will only serve to negatively impact an already complex emergency response,” said Taylor.

Both Police Chief Wayne Torpy and Fire Chief Doug Tucker would like to remind the community that the siren at MDA B should be viewed as a warning notification tool.  

It will only be sounded when/if a significant event has occurred at the excavation site that has the potential for allowing an unfiltered hazardous substance to escape the enclosure.  I

f you live or work within a quarter mile of MDA B and you hear the siren, you should shelter in place and listen to AM 1610 for situation updates.