Local

Are you signed up for emergency alerts? Chances are very good the answer is no

You have 10 minutes to evacuate. Are you ready?

You can’t predict when disaster will strike, so make sure you have a plan. Here are nine things you can do to prepare for a future evacuation.
Up Next
You can’t predict when disaster will strike, so make sure you have a plan. Here are nine things you can do to prepare for a future evacuation.

Only 2,880 of San Luis Obispo County’s 281,000 residents are signed up for the Sheriff’s Office Reverse 911 system that sends alerts to people’s cellphones in cases of extreme weather, natural disasters, fires and other emergencies.

That represents about 1 percent of the population.

In the wake of several recent natural disasters worldwide — like the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Mexico, hurricanes and the sweeping Santa Rosa fires that ripped through Northern California this month — authorities are encouraging more people to sign up for emergency alerts.

County residents with landlines, regardless of their service, receive calls in emergency situations.

And other methods of emergency notification are in place, such as the federal Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system, which provides notifications by default on people’s cellphones. It is used by the California Highway Patrol, the County Office of Emergency Services, the National Weather Service and even the president, said Ron Alsop, the county’s emergency services manager.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ 

How to register for Reverse 911

Registration is available on the sheriff’s website at www.slosheriff.org/reverse_911.php. Anyone with problems registering may send an email to the office at sh-reverse911@co.slo.ca.us.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ 

Radio and television warnings of threatening and dangerous events, like flash floods, fires and dam failures, as well as Diablo Canyon’s emergency sirens, also can warn people during crisis situations. Authorities will even go door to door.

But county officials would like to see more people register on the Reverse 911 system than the meager number signed up currently. The system provides people with information about incident updates, evacuations, road closures, safety precautions and more.

“From our standpoint, I’d love to see every cellphone in the county on the system,” said Judy Gallo, the sheriff’s technology supervisor. “We’d rather that a lot of people get the same notice three times than the one person who needs it not get it.”

AMBER, Blue and Silver Alerts are used by local law enforcement to notify the public that someone has gone missing. Here’s what you need to know about what each color code means.

Alerts are used only in emergency situations. Cellphone numbers aren’t shared or sold.

The WEA system has been used since 2002 and doesn’t require registration, Alsop said. Text notifications are currently limited to 90 characters, though the Federal Communications Commission is working on increasing that total to 360 characters on new technology cell systems, Alsop said.

The County Office of Emergency Services issued WEA warnings for residents of the Nacimiento Lake area during the Chimney Fire in August 2016, as well as the fires in Santa Margarita area in June.

“People’s cellphones will be alerted by default,” Alsop said. “There’s no need to sign up. Most people don’t even know they can turn off their alert systems. But some do, and those people won’t receive the notifications unless they turn them back on.”

But Alsop said that system works more as a warning and those signed up for Reverse 911 could get more detailed information.

The CHP issues Amber Alerts through WEA, informing people of missing or abducted children. The National Weather Service also uses it to send out alerts on tsunami warnings, flash floods and extreme winds.

From our standpoint, I’d love to see every cellphone in the county on the system.

Judy Gallo, Sheriff’s Office technology supervisor

Alsop said that with predictions that California is overdue for a major earthquake that could knock out power and potentially limit food and water supplies, the more prepared people can be the better.

“As agencies, we’re as prepared as our resources allow,” Alsop said. “But for residents, on an individual basis, people can be a lot more prepared than they are. The Reverse 911 is a good sign of that.”

CalFire encourages you to prepare an evacuation plan for pets and livestock. In its Aug. 14, 2017 Situation Report available on Facebook @CALFIRE, Scott Mclean sums it up: plan ahead. Do you have an emergency supply kit just for them? Here's what

How to register for Reverse 911

Registration is available on the sheriff’s website at www.slosheriff.org/reverse_911.php. Anyone with problems registering may send an email to the office at sh-reverse911@co.slo.ca.us.

  Comments