BRITISH COLUMBIA

Port Alberni Tsunami Warning Test Sound Is Now A Didgeridoo

06/27/2015 02:07 EDT | Updated 06/30/2015 11:59 EDT
Matt Roberts via Getty Images
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 04: Preston Campbell plays the didgeridoo before the match between the Indigenous All Stars and the NRL All Stars at Skilled Park on February 4, 2012 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The people of Port Alberni, B.C. are used to hearing a monthly test of the city's tsunami warning system. So accustomed, in fact, that the city decided it needed to shake things up.

Some its 17,000 residents were ignoring the tone on the alert system, Mayor Mike Ruttan told Global News, so some high school students came up with a solution.

The civics students at Alberni District Secondary School researched sounds ranging from Disney songs to bongo drums to quacking ducks. They ultimately recommended the didgeridoo, a wind instrument created by the indigenous people of Australia.

City council accepted the idea earlier this month, reported the Alberni Valley Times.

"We wanted something upbeat, happy-inducing and funny. It just seemed to fit the bill," student Liam Clifford told the newspaper.

Commercial songs were scrapped due to copyright issues, while higher and lower pitched sounds would not have broadcast properly over the towers. Other possibilities like a heartbeat or laughing baby just ended up sounding creepy over the loudspeakers, Grade 11 student Freya Knapp told the Globe and Mail.

Starting this fall, the didgeridoo sound will be played over four speakers across the city, followed by a voice message that repeats three times: "This is a test. Only a test. A test of the tsunami warning system."

An actual tsunami would trigger a three-minute-long siren and a different message for people to head to higher ground.

In 1964, a 9.2-magnitude earthquake in Alaska created two tsunamis that devastated Port Alberni. No one was injured but 300 homes and businesses were damaged.

The natural disaster led to a local warning system that developed into its present format, which is tested on the first Wednesday of every month.

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