Perhaps no other noise in Ocean County can be ominous and reassuring at the same time - ominous because of its purpose, reassuring because of its volume.

All 42 emergency sirens in the 10-mile Emergency Planning Zone surrounding the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Lacey Township undergo their semi-annual three-minute test, Tuesday at around 12 Noon, according to Exelon spokesperson Suzanne D'Ambrosio.

If you're new to the area, the sirens have a tone and pitch unlike familiar signals summoning volunteer firefighters to their stations, and they're nothing like a lunch whistle. Wherever you are in the vicinity during a test, you hear it and expect it to trail off in a few seconds, as most others do, and then you notice that it just keeps going. It alters your perspective of what three minutes actually is.

Tests take place every June and December. Ocean County Emergency Management personnel activate them. Sirens are not an evacuation signal, company officials say, but instead are the signal to start monitoring broadcast Emergency Alert System information..

The Forked River nuclear generating station is in its 48th year of operation, sending power to the PJM grid to service about 600,000 homes. Decommissioning is scheduled to begin in 2019.

Sign Up For The WOBM Newsletter