By Greg Renick
The next time ports, harbors and communities along California’s coast are threatened by a tsunami that is generated by either an undersea landslide or an earthquake off our coast or by one hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, the ability of local, state and federal agencies to warn the public will be critical to saving lives, reducing injuries and reducing property losses.
On Wednesday, March 25, at approximately 10:15 a.m., National Weather Service (NWS) offices in Monterey, Oxnard and San Diego will test the tsunami warning communication system in California by broadcasting a “Required Monthly Test” message via the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to local radio and television stations from Sonoma County to the U.S.-Mexico border for retransmission. The message will also be transmitted via NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards.
The test, which is being conducted in cooperation with the California Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) and the California Broadcasters Association and in conjunction with Tsunami Preparedness Week, is a key component of local, state and federal efforts to make sure the system will work when the next tsunami hits California.
“The annual Tsunami EAS test is critical to ensure that time sensitive communication between the National Weather Service and the EAS distributors such as media outlets occur with no glitches,” said Alexander Tardy, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS office in San Diego. “If there are issues discovered from when the message goes through NOAA weather radio, EAS and then relayed to receiving broadcasters, corrective measures can be taken to resolve them before the next real hazard occurs. The EAS is only used for the dissemination of critical life and property saving information, therefore regular testing is necessary.”
The test also serves as springboard for drills and exercises conducted by emergency managers and responders to test their response plans.
“Short of using ‘live’ EAS codes that may create confusion across media outlets, the NWS in conjunction with EAS participants use the Required Monthly Test or RMT, to test tsunami communication systems throughout southern California. This test also gives state and local authorities a mechanism to practice tsunami inundation evacuation plans and emergency operations in the event of an actual tsunami,” said Eric Boldt, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS office in Oxnard.
“The week of March 22-28, 2015 is National Tsunami Preparedness Week and is the perfect time to learn more about tsunami safety, how you will be notified of a tsunami warning, and where the inundation zones are located,” he added.
The test will feature an audio message indicating that a TEST is being conducted. Some viewers and listeners, however, may not realize a test is being conducted if they are unable to hear the message because the volume is off or down or for other reasons.
Although a standard emergency alert message may appear in a scroll at the bottom of the television screen, some viewers may not realize a test is underway if the word TEST is not included within the message.
To help prevent potential confusion, organizers will cancel the test if excessive seismic activity occurs in the 24 hours preceding the test.
Weather Service officials ask coastal residents and business owners to contact their local NWS if they do not receive the message. They also welcome public feedback regarding the test at weather.gov/test
Additional information about tsunamis and Tsunami Preparedness Week is available at: