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Cold War-Era Sirens Returning to Action

November 30, 2002|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

Sirens first installed during the Cold War will sound off again in Huntington Beach, this time for monthly tests of a system that would warn of possible terrorist attacks and natural disasters such as tidal waves.

At noon on the last Friday of each month, sirens at seven fire stations will blast for a minute to ensure the system is operable, said Huntington Beach Fire Battalion Chief Jacques Pelletier.

The system was built in the 1950s when world tensions mounted with the threat of nuclear war. It had been routinely tested until about five years ago, when the city fire department changed its communications center.

At the time, the department weighed whether it should continue having such a system or order its dismantling. Eventually, it was decided to keep the sirens and run monthly tests to make sure they're operable, Pelletier said.

Huntington Beach is one of the few remaining cities in the state with such a warning system.

"It's been on our agenda to get these sirens working again," Pelletier said.

"The system can warn residents of natural emergencies like earthquakes and also warn of impending attacks."

Pelletier said that if residents hear a siren at noon on the last Friday of the month, they should not worry. If it goes off any other time, they should turn on a radio or television for further information, he said.

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