TACOMA — Pierce County is moving to a new centralized lahar warning system — one that could replace the jolting wail of sirens with the gentler sound of chiming bells during twice-yearly tests.
A satellite-based system for alerting Puyallup Valley residents of a catastrophic volcanic debris flow from Mount Rainier would cost up to $1 million to install and $60,000 a year to monitor, said Ken Parrish, operations manager for Pierce County’s Department of Emergency Management.
The county hopes to have the new system in place by the end of next year.
It would parallel the tsunami warning system along Washington’s coast, which uses doorbell chimes for live tests.
The new technology would allow silent in-house testing at any time, plus periodic tests that the outside world could hear, with possible sound effects including Westminster bell chimes.
“We only want to do the wail in the real event,” Parrish said.
More than 60,000 people live on the Puyallup Valley floor, where 26 lahar warning sirens are scattered to alert the region if a fast-moving gush of volcanic debris flows down Mount Rainier.