New LRAD emergency alert system tested in San Jose 8 months after Coyote Creek floods

- San Jose city officials are testing a new alert system designed to warn residents of impending disaster. City and Santa Clara Valley Water District executives have been soundly criticized for failing to let residents know flooding was imminent until their homes were inundated with water.

Eight months after the fact, and Rock Springs resident Ruben Lechuda still has repairs to finish before he can finally return home.

"It's almost completely done. I still got the door trimming [to do]. part of the floor on one side. the bathroom," said Lechuda, standing in a front yard that still has new kitchen equipment waiting for installation..

Hundreds of other people were forced from three city neighborhoods in February when the Coyote Creek overran its banks. Historic rain fall and a release from Anderson Damn were contributing factors. But many people say the city didn't notify them until the fire department had begun boat rescues.

"It's locked, loaded, and ready to go at any time," said San Jose Office of Emergency Management director Ray Riordan.

He says the city just received several Long Range Acoustic Devices, at a cost ranging from $10,000-to-$122,000. Known as LRADs, this one can broadcast warning messages up to one mile away, using an Omni-directional speaker atop a 30-foot mast. A smaller, uni-directional speaker can be mounted on a vehicle, and driven around a neighborhood, announcing evacuation orders up to 500-feet in distance.

"Automatic loud announcement that we can make at any time of day, or night, so that the public can actually hear the announcement at the same time as sending out the message over the other devices. So it's one of many tools we have to notify the public," said Riordan.

Victim's advocates say implementing this system, which was purchased before February's flood, is a step on the path to better public safety. 

"I think there have been some lessons learned. We'll see this winter, if we're gonna get a lot of rain again, whether the system is gonna be in place to be able to protect people," said Ted Smith, whose son's home was flooded last February.

Ray Riordan says the LRAD got a dry run last week, when he took it to Santa Rosa to help get needed information to evacuees returning home. there's a demonstration of the system this weekend, and a winter storm resource fair at the MLK Library.

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