City of Seaside issues false tsunami warning after malfunction of warning system

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, the City of Seaside’s regularly scheduled maintenance testing of its tsunami warning system malfunctioned, erroneously informing thousands of citizens and visitors that a tsunami was scheduled to arrive on the coast in approximately four hours. The city wanted to make sure that residents and visitors understood what had happened this morning and the steps being taken to correct the error.

“For years, the city has been running monthly tests of the system on the first Wednesday of the month,” explains Jon Rahl, public information officer for the city. While evaluating the system in December, the server that runs these warnings crashed. Early morning testing today led us to believe the system was back online and would operate correctly.”

While the usual procedure was followed in conducting today’s monthly test, our reports now indicate that one of the several pre-recorded messages we have ready to implement — depending on the emergency at hand — pre-empted the usual “this is only a test message.”

“We regret the error,” stated Rahl, “but it’s also a reminder of why we do these tests and run them throughout the year. Tests give us the opportunity to evaluate what’s working, and in this case what’s not. City management and the Seaside Police Department, where the message system resides, are working together to continually improve the system and we learned today that we have several improvements to make that we will begin working on immediately.

The city encourages residents and visitors to use this, and every monthly warning, as a reminder that emergencies can strike at any time and not just in the form of a natural disaster. “Fires, winter storms, a shutdown of Highway 101, these are just a few things beyond a tsunami that could happen here,” cautions Rahl. “Taking time every month to do an inventory of emergency supplies and asking yourself what route you would take should disaster strike is something we encourage every citizen to do.”

You can start your safety preparation today with a couple of simple steps. For cell phone users: sign up to receive text updates when tsunami tests like these will occur, along with information about road closures and safety warnings. To get these texts, simply send the zip code, 97138, by text, to phone number 888777. This will sign you up for our monthly warnings. You can also register your phone number and email by visiting Alternatively, you can follow the Seaside Police Department on Facebook.

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