Second round of new BC Hydro alarm systems testing next week

Strobe lights, sirens to be tested along Puntledge River

If you’re hiking along the Puntledge River next week, and sirens go off, or strobe lights start flashing, do not panic. It is only a test.

BC Hydro will be conducting its second round in a series of alarm system tests, along the puntledge next week, from Comox Dam all the way to Puntledge Park.

“BC Hydro completed an audibility test along the Puntledge River at the end of August to ensure people at risk within the river could hear the new siren system,” said Stephen Watson of BC Hydro, in a press release. “Adjustments were made and the audibility requirements were confirmed. The new strobe lights, a first for this river system, were also tested. Now we are ready to implement the next test by performing a full system simulation test to ensure the sirens and strobe lights work as expected during sudden river flow increase events.”

Strobes Monday, Tuesday; sirens Wednesday

Testing of the system will take from Monday, Sept. 25 through Wednesday, Sept. 27. On Monday and Tuesday, the testing will only include the strobe lights flashing at all key public warning sites.

On Wednesday, the siren system will be tested from Comox dam down to Puntledge Park. It is expected the sirens will begin at the dam at about 8:30 a.m., with the sirens at Puntledge Diversion dam/Barbers Hole, Nymph Falls and Stotan Falls occurring shortly thereafter.

The sirens at powerhouse and Puntledge Park are expected to sound later that morning. All siren testing should be completed by noon.

“We have made numerous changes to the system, including a new siren sound that’s a slow whooping sound that’s becoming the standard sound for all hydroelectric utilities across Canada,” said Watson. “The strobe lights, angled down or up the river corridor, are to initiate during the night.”

Stay away from river Wednesday

BC Hydro is advising of the public warning system tests so the community is aware of what’s happening, and for people to stay away from the river on Wednesday morning when the siren system portion of the test takes place.

“There is no planned increase in river flows on Wednesday,” said Watson. “We will be doing a simulation to create an artificial unplanned and sudden increase in water flow from the Comox dam spillway gates. As the water would move downstream, the system will then engage in a staggered sequence so all of the system sirens will eventually engage to Puntledge Park.”

The test will verify the system operates in the correct sequence and the sirens remain active for the correct duration. An actual river flow test, with a water flow change, may be carried out later in the year when there is more water in the system.

“The new system sirens will be on for a longer period of time compared to the existing system,” said watson. “That’s because they will engage when it’s triggered that an unplanned increase in flow has taken place immediately upstream, and then they will stay on until the water surge has passed by. They will stay on until the danger has passed. However, the siren system will not be initiated as often as the old warning system given the improvements that we’ve made. This means people will hear the sirens for a longer period of time when the new warning system is engaged, but the overall system will not be initiating as often.”

For more information, contact Watson at 1-250-755-4795 or steve.watson@bchydro.com

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