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They are getting rid of warning sirens in Oregon; Sri Lanka is still installing

The gist of the NYT report is that some residents of coastal Oregon are unhappy about the discontinuance of tsunami warning sirens. But in these matters what one has to look at is the science.

Supporters of the county’s decision, including some coastal hazard experts, say that the sirens, comforting as they may sound in their monthly tests, are so vague in their wailing message — declaring only a tsunami in approach, with no indication of size or timing — that they may be, in a strange way, dangerous to public safety.

The last time the sirens wailed, after the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, for example, which triggered tsunami alerts around much of the Pacific Rim, emergency managers here expected the tsunami hitting this part of Oregon to be small, which it was. The only evacuations they ordered were for residents living within a half mile of the shoreline.

But some people panicked anyway, as word of mouth flashed through the community and images from Japan filled the news, and at least a few residents fled. County managers said they drew a message from the experience that a more finely tuned, information-rich alert system would be an improvement over their current tools, including the sirens,

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