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Officials Test Alaska Tsunami Warning System for the First Time

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service and Alaska's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in cooperation with local emergency management offices and the Alaska Broadcasters Association, will conduct the first-ever statewide test of the tsunami warning communications system on March 30 at 9:45 a.m. Alaska Standard Time.

Live tsunami warning codes, rather than a test code, will be broadcast on television stations statewide. The communications test will involve NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and other state and local communication links. Radio listeners should hear the familiar alerting tone followed by an audio message describing the test, similar to the routine monthly tests of the EAS. Television viewers, however, may see something different.

Some automated systems, such as for cable TV, are programmed to scroll a standard, pre-composed message based upon the emergency code received. Because a live tsunami warning code will be used, the message television viewers see will not contain the word "test." In fact, it should say, "The National Weather Service has issued a tsunami warning for all of Alaska…" The television audio message that will accompany the crawler will explain it is a test, but if the volume is turned down or otherwise unheard, viewers may not realize the warning is a test.

"This is a critical first step in testing the entire tsunami warning communications system to ensure the safety of all Alaskans," said retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Launtenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "We're confident the results will not only help protect Alaskans from future tsunamis, but will serve as a testing model for other states and territories that could be impacted by these destructive waves. We think tests like this will become a standard part of NOAA's commitment to better engage and inform the public as we build a nationwide tsunami detection and warning system."

The test is part of Tsunami Awareness Week, proclaimed by Governor Frank Murkowski as March 27 - April 2. The week coincides with the anniversary of the Great Alaskan Earthquake – a devastating 9.2 magnitude earthquake that triggered deadly tsunamis in Alaska 41 years ago on Good Friday, March 27, 1964.

"The deadly tsunami that occurred in Indonesia last December illustrates the extreme importance of having a tsunami warning system," Murkowski said. "When an actual tsunami warning is issued, we have to be ready to give all Alaskans that could be in danger as much notice as possible so they can seek safety."

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