Laguna Beach will test completed emergency warning system on Thursday

A Long Range Acoustic Device on top of a building at Laguna Beach High School is part of the newly-expanded Outdoor Warning System. Courtesy of city of Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach will test its newly completed Outdoor Emergency Warning System at 12 p.m. on Thursday, following the installation of 21 loudspeakers across the city.

This event will include a loud siren followed by a recorded message, indicating it’s a test.

The system is a component of the 2019 Wildfire Mitigation and Safety Plan approved by the City Council to identify and prioritize programs, staffing, and equipment needed to offset Laguna Beach’s very-high wildfire hazard severity. Although wind-blown fires are top of mind for many residents, the loudspeakers can also be helpful to broadcast alerts for earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, debris flows, and human-made disasters.

“Nothing presents a greater risk to our public safety than a wildfire or a major earthquake,” Mayor Bob Whalen said in a prepared statement. “This outdoor emergency warning system will save lives in the event of a major disaster.”

Over the past 18 months, city staffers have expanded the system beyond Main Beach and Downtown to include neighborhoods, locations near schools, and open spaces adjacent to homes. Emergency information can be broadcasted by one or all of the speakers, depending on the event and target audience. Each unit includes a Long Range Acoustic Device that can be powered by attached solar panels during a power outage. The system’s ability to generate its own electricity was among the recommendations from the Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Committee.

“Each enhancement we make to our City’s emergency preparedness makes our residents and visitors safer,” Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said in a prepared statement. “With this new outdoor warning system, we are that much closer to fully executing our Wildfire Mitigation and Fire Safety Plan and ensuring we are as prepared as possible in the event of an emergency.”

In October 2019, the City Council contracted Genasys Corporation for about $1.23 million for the system’s installation and three years of software hosting, service, and maintenance. A state grant partially covered funding for the expansion of the Outdoor Warning System.

Among the City’s partners in installing the loudspeakers are the Laguna Beach Unified School District, Laguna Beach County Water District, OC Parks, OC Public Works, Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, St. Catherine of Siena Parish School, Gelson’s Market, and Lost Pier Café/The Ranch at Laguna Beach

“The safety of our residents and visitors in an emergency is our top priority,” Interim Police Chief Jeff Calvert said in a prepared statement. “This new state-of-the-art emergency warning system provides us with yet another tool to reach more people in our community in an emergency, by enabling us to quickly send safety instructions over the loudspeakers if a wildfire or other hazard is approaching.”

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