SURFSIDE - On July 3 the second of two tsunami warning towers was moved in Surfside Estates because the $50,000 warning system was unable to receive signal at the previous location.
The cost of the relocation performed by workers from Day Wireless Systems out of Sea-Tac was paid for by the original contractor, Federal Signal Company.
"The problem of having to move the poles came about because the original electrical and location specifications given to us by Federal Signal were not complete," Pacific County Communication and Emergency Management Director Stephanie Fritts said.
The tsunami warning towers are able to send siren and voice signals out, but also have complex electronic systems to receive information that will activate the emergency transmissions when necessary.
"We knew the towers had to face south, but later we found out that they must be set to receive signal at a 30-degree angle to the horizon," Fritts explained. "With all of the trees on the Peninsula it was difficult to find sites that met those new specs."
There are a total of a dozen tsunami warning towers in Pacific County, with 10 of them under Fritts' jurisdiction, one located in a state park and the other on the Shoalwater Indian Reservation. Fritts saved time and money by revamping the original site plan for several of the towers so that they successfully receive signal. Two poles had to be taken out and placed deeper in the ground early in the project because of the 11,000-pound load of the sirens and electrical equipment.
"We've had to move several towers for various reasons around the state," Day Systems worker Josh Ereth said. "Some folks have gotten angry at us for messing up the project, but we just did what we were told. On the bright side, we have the procedure down now on how to reinstall the towers." The costs of reinstalling the towers will be borne by Federal Signal.
Fritts related, "I do everything I can to operate my department efficiently. I believe that Pacific County runs their operations just as efficiently as any business would run and I hope the public has the same perception. Sometimes people make honest mistakes."
There are a total of 30 tsunami warning towers located in the state's coastal regions. Ereth said Day Systems had moved a tower for similar reasons the day before in the Ferndale area. At present all 12 towers are installed in Pacific County and a few still need to be "optimized" in order to be online to receive computer and satellite signals.
Fritts said, "The systems are tested silently every day. After some training and the optimization process is completed, we will give the public plenty of advance warning before we deploy an audible test."
That test will no doubt be music to the ears of Fritts, workers at Day Systems and county residents who will have the peace of mind knowing the tsunami warning system will finally be operable.