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HOMER-At Monday's City Council meeting, the city of Homer voted to officially opt out of the automatically activated Tsunami Warning System. Currently, Homer is the only community that has done so, but Seward, Kenai, and Seldovia are considering making the same move.
The false alarm in June, set off when a 7.2 magnitude quake struck Amukta Island, triggered sirens throughout the peninsula, prompting evacuation of the Homer Spit and other low-lying areas long after the threat was officially over.
The main complaint in the new automated system was that there were too many levels of government involved in the alert system. Initially, the warning is sent out by the West Coast and Alaska Warning Center, then through cooperation of the state and National Weather Service, an alert is sent through Kenai Peninsula Borough Tsunami hardware by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was this framework that sent the late and erroneous alert through the peninsula last June.
Under the new plan worked out by the council, the Homer police department would receive a faxed, phoned and Internet message from the Tsunami Center at which time the department would make a decision if an alert should be sounded in Homer and the Kachemak Bay area. Homer Police Chief, Mark Robl stated at the Homer city council meeting, “For 25 years we activated that system. The change to an automated system is relatively new. I think we can improve on it. I don’t have any problem putting that burden on the police department.”
The system will have a chance to be tested to work out bugs again in February of 2012, when the network participates in the “Alaska Shield 2012” exercise when an energy disaster scenario is played out.