Xcel Energy to install warning sirens on lower Red Cedar River

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. – In the coming weeks, contractors working for Xcel Energy will begin installing warning sirens along the lower Red Cedar River in Dunn County. The sirens would be used to quickly and safely alert nearby public if there was a catastrophic failure at one of the company’s hydroelectric dams that caused water to rise rapidly downstream. Xcel Energy operates 19 hydroelectric plants in Wisconsin with a total generating capacity of about 260 megawatts.

“Our detailed emergency planning process ensures that we evaluate many different scenarios,” said Matt Miller, coordinator, Emergency Action Planning. “Following a routine evaluation of our emergency procedures, we identified several opportunities to improve notification response times for downstream residents. While a major dam failure is unlikely, today’s technology allows us to install sirens that include a distinct tone and voice message that can quickly and safely warn residents downstream of our hydroelectric facilities.”

The solar-powered warning sirens will be affixed to 55-foot poles and installed in two locations downstream of Xcel Energy’s Menomonie Hydroelectric Project on the lower Red Cedar River. The sirens can be activated from the hydroelectric plants or remotely from the company’s 24-hour Control Center. The sirens will be spaced to maximize the audible area and will be tested on the first Monday of each month beginning early next year.

Testing sequence:
1.Whoop tone for 30 seconds.
2.“Attention! This is a test of the dam failure warning system. This is only a test. If this was an actual emergency you would receive instructions. This is only a test.”
3.Post Test Message: “This has been a test of the dam failure warning system. This was only a test.”

In the event of a dam failure, the sequence would be:
1.Whoop tone for 10 seconds.
2.“Attention! An upstream dam has failed. Remain calm and seek higher ground immediately. Expect rapidly rising waters. Please evacuate to a safe area immediately!” (repeat three times with five second delay between messages).
3.Whoop tone for 60 seconds.
4.Repeat for 30 minutes or until warning is cancelled.

In October, Xcel Energy installed warning sirens along the Namekagon River in Washburn County. The three sirens are located downstream of the Trego Hydroelectric Project. Also in December 2011, nine sirens were installed at locations between Cornell and Eau Claire to provide a warning system for those downstream of the lower Chippewa River hydro facilities.

Xcel Energy will be distributing information to local and county officials as well as local residents regarding the new warning sirens. Customers who have questions regarding the new sirens are asked to contact Xcel Energy’s Customer Contact Center at 1-800-895-4999.

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