BC Hydro will test its Puntledge River public warning system on Thursday from approximately 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Public safety is BC Hydro’s highest priority and the tests are part of an audit of BC Hydro’s Puntledge River warning system to ensure the sirens are working as intended, spokesman Stephen Watson said Monday in a news release.
The warning system, which replaced an air-raid warning system in early 2010, was designed to provide enhanced warnings on the danger of sudden and higher river flows. Seven sirens, placed from the Comox Dam to Puntledge Park, initiate when water levels increase faster than normal.
The most dangerous public safety risk would be a forced shutdown of the intake gate, located at the Puntledge diversion dam. The shutdown would force water intended for the pipeline and generating station to instead be released over the dam and into the Barber’s Hole section of the river with very limited notice to anyone below.
Due to this risk, BC Hydro discourages public use in the section of the river between the Puntledge diversion dam and Barber’s Hole at all times.
The warning system has a brief air-raid sound to get the public’s attention, followed by the verbal warning “danger, river levels rising” repeated three times. The public will hear these sounds near the Puntledge River on Thursday.
The sirens would normally go off in delayed sequence as the water moves downstream to give advance public notice to get out of the river. The same general process will be followed when BC Hydro staff begin the tests at the Comox Dam and work their way down to Puntledge Park.
Each siren system will be initiated so that staff can listen and determine the sounds are reaching key sections of the river. The Puntledge River flow level on the day of the test will remain at normal levels.
BC Hydro appreciates the public’s patience and understanding during these important one-day tests, Watson concludes.
— BC Hydro