PENDLETON - County emergency officials say that the failure of last week's tone alert radio test was not due to the radios but the device that activates them.

That said, agencies can begin redistributing the radios to the 89 test sites in Morrow and Umatilla counties, said Cheryl Humphrey, the public information officer for the Umatilla County Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program.

The problem some radios had in receiving an alert signal on Jan. 25 was due to insufficient signal strength, she explained.

"We have discovered that the main transmitter site was not used to broadcast the alert signals during Tuesday's testing," said Bill Howard, the logistics officer for Umatilla and Morrow counties' CSEPP in a press release. "An unmarked switch on the unit that activates the (radio) was in the wrong position. That meant that rather than broadcasting the 'alert' signal from the main site at the Silussi Butte transmitter, the signal was sent from the back up Gleason Butte transmitter. Gleason is located at a much greater distance from the Immediate Response Zone. This would account for the low signal strength."

Officials put the switch in the correct spot Monday afternoon, which may be all that's needed for the radios to receive the signals properly.

Howard and others worked Monday to test several radios by broadcasting from the primary site at Silussi Butte. All of the 13 sites tested received the signal, though two areas will need additional antennas to boost the signal, Humphrey said. Those should arrive this week.

CSEPP will begin redistributing the radios, hopefully this week, and continue testing, which will take about two weeks, Humphrey added.

The radios are a necessary component of the system devised to warn area residents of an accident at the near-by Umatilla Chemical Depot. During a Jan. 25 test of 89 tone alert radios in Umatilla and Morrow counties, only 24 received the alert signal, Humphrey said. But when the radios were all collected in Pendleton, they all received the signal.

In addition, an independent company in Texas will inspect 10 of the 300 radios delivered to the counties, Humphrey said.

This is a further delay of the long-awaited radios. County officials maintain they won't distribute the alert radios until they are satisfied with the tests.

Across the Columbia River, Benton County Emergency Management in Washington is in the midst of repairing radios delivered last fall. About half didn't work correctly.

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