BeachAlert Torrance Beach April 2021

The new beach evacuation alert system at Torrance Beach experienced technical difficulties and was unable to test in Torrance on Thursday, April 29, 2021. Despite the signs posted along the beach people did not get to hear the alert but the lights did flash briefly. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

The first test of a Los Angeles County beach emergency system, meant to warn folks about various dangers, experienced technical glitches on Thursday afternoon, April 29 — with the flashing lights not coming on initially and the audio messages being relatively muted.

But it won’t be long before the team with the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbor gets to try again: Officials plan to test the new Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System, at Torrance Beach, each Thursday for the next four weeks.

“Today has been a Murphy’s Law day,” said Beaches and Harbor spokeswoman Nicole Mooradian. “Everything that could go wrong went wrong.”

The new system, also known by its acronym, BEELS, is meant to warn beachgoers if there’s a risk of tsunamis, sharks, thunderstorms or other dangers. It has two primary methods of warning folks. The first, for those who are deaf or hearing impaired, flashes strobe lights. The second is an audio warning — loud enough, in theory, to be heard as far away as the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Thursday’s test was set for 3 to 5 p.m., but the system experienced multiple problems.

The Beaches and Harbor Department initially tested the lights earlier this week, said safety officer Randy Dean. When it did, Dean said, he could see them from hundreds of feet away. This time, however, it took awhile before officials could get the lights working — though they did eventually.

The audio also proved problematic.

The audio messages didn’t reach nearly the decibel level it is intended to. The system, Dean said, had several issues, including problems with the amplifiers and SIM cards.

Despite the day’s challenges, Mooradian said, the test was still a partial success: The emergency messages played and the lights flashed.

The department plans to have the system be fully functional in June.

Beaches and Harbor will perform testing from 3 to 5 p.m. each Thursday in May.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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