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Newport Beach to replace rusty tsunami warning sirens

Marina Park lighthouse siren
A tsunami warning siren can be seen in the faux lighthouse at the Marina Park community center in Newport Beach. The siren’s horn is where the light would be in a functioning lighthouse.
(File Photo)

Newport Beach will replace its tsunami warning alarms because its current sirens rusted.

The city plans to spend $200,000 to swap out its three sirens, all of which are on the Balboa Peninsula. The replacements are expected to be in by the end of the year.

The city mounted its original set in 2010 on poles at the Wedge, West Newport Park and the small park adjacent to the American Legion post. The one near the American Legion moved inside a faux lighthouse at nearby Marina Park after the community center there was built in 2015.

Police can remotely activate the alarms in case of an impending tsunami or another disaster. When working properly, the mechanical alarms emit air-raid-style blasts as loud as 128 decibels, alerting residents to switch on their radios or televisions for further information.

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But during testing last year, the city found that two of the three weren’t working properly, said city Emergency Services Coordinator Katie Eing.

The culprit: moisture on moving metal.

“The current system uses mechanical sirens that have not proven durable in the coastal environment,” according to a report from Newport Beach police.

Eing was even more direct.

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“As you know, in the coastal environment, things tend to rust,” she told the City Council last week before it voted for the purchase and installation.

City staff determined it was more cost-effective and up to date to fully replace the sirens rather than order expensive parts, Eing said.

The new sirens are manufactured by LRAD Corp. and have no moving parts. They also are equipped with a public address system, enabling public safety departments to dispatch information directly.

Nearby Huntington Beach and Laguna Beach already use sirens manufactured by LRAD, making joint activation possible, according to the police staff report.

Newport stepped up its tsunami preparations after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the Northern California coast in June 2005. The temblor led to a tsunami alert throughout the West Coast, and confusion and gridlocked traffic ensued as Balboa Peninsula residents tried to evacuate, though police did not give an order.

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