If you hear a loud siren blaring across Big Bear Valley, don’t worry — unless the siren lasts three minutes. Then it’s time to pay attention.
Beginning Aug. 22, Big Bear Fire Department will reactivate emergency warning sirens in the Valley. At 11 a.m., test sirens will blast for 15 seconds. In the event of a real emergency, the siren will blast for three minutes.
Big Bear Fire Chief Jeff Willis said the sirens haven’t been operational for many years due to technology changes. Now that the systems and the technology that powers them have stabilized, they will be reactivated.
Sirens are located at several sites around Big Bear including the Bear Valley Unified School District bus depot in Big Bear City, Fire Station 282 in Big Bear City, the Moonridge Fire Station and Big Bear Lake City Hall. Willis said grant funding is being sought to place a siren in Baldwin Lake.
Most people in Big Bear are aware of emergency situations such as wildfires during the day, but when the sun goes down, the danger is harder to see, Willis said. An emergency siren could wake up people during the night if it was necessary, he said.
Beginning Aug. 22, and every fourth Thursday of the month at 11 a.m., test blasts will take place. Test sirens will be 15 seconds.
If an actual emergency occurs requiring action on the part of residents and visitors to the Valley, the siren will be a three minute long “obnoxious blast,” Willis said. That long blast is a signal to turn to local media sources for more information, he said.
Radio broadcasts are the most immediate when dealing with an emergency, but other media and means of communicating with the public will be used as well, according to Dawn Marchinke, public information officer for the Big Bear Fire Department. The Grizzly, social media and digital media will also be used, she said.
Additionally, reverse 9-1-1, cellphone notificaitons and similar digital methods will be used, Willis said.
In notifying the public that the test are coming and as reminders monthly, all traditional media methods will be used. Marchinke is also working with Visit Big Bear to make sure information is provided to visitors as they check into lodges and private home rental cabins.
The Grizzly will include a reminder on test days in its Good Morning Big Bear newsletter and via push notification on the Big Bear Now app, as well as on its social media and digital platforms. In the event of a real emergency, The Grizzly will use all its resources to provide breaking news alerts on its website, Big Bear Now app and social media platforms to keep the public informed.
Willis said that in addition to fires, which might require evacuation, the sirens can alert the public in the event of a flood, a public health concern or other disaster.
Big Bear has been ahead of the curve in its potential to notify the public in emergency situations, Willis said. With the deadly fires that have struck California in recent yeas, early warning and notification have been included in the after action reports as necessary, Willis said. He said he takes pride in Big Bear completing this project and his amazing team that made it happen.