Siren Testing At Oroville Dam Alerts Workers To Water Release; Unrelated To Disaster Preparedness

Jan 14, 2020

The damaged spillway in Oroville, Calif. from 2017.
Credit William Croyle / California Department of Water Resources

Since the Oroville Dam Spillway crisis in 2017 and the Camp Fire the following year, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not a siren system could help alert people to an evacuation.


News sirens being tested at the Oroville Dam are not that.

The sirens being tested Wednesday by the Department of Water Resources are meant to warn those working on the dam or people visiting right nearby, Liza Whitmore a public information officer with DWR said. 


“These are not emergency sirens, these are only alert sirens,” she said. 


The tests may occur any time after 10 a.m., Whitemore, who is based out of Oroville, said. 


While rated at 121 decibels, Whitmore said the sirens won’t be audible in Oroville. 


“It doesn’t even reach past the bend in the diversion pool there,” she said. 

Under normal operation, the sirens will blast before officials release water down the spillway. While primarily aimed at warning contractors and DWR employees, Whitmore said they’ll also alert people recreating just downstream. 


“People fishing on the side of the diversion pool, maybe some hikers or bikers that might be using the trails in the area to let them know that their might be a water level rise,” Whitemore said. 


As of Monday evening, the lake’s level was 108 feet below capacity.