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  1. TopTop #1
    Shandi's Avatar
    Shandi
     

    Sonoma Officials Neglected to Use Mass Cell Phone Alerts to Warn of Fires

    I haven't seen anything about this here, but maybe I missed it. This is from Nov 18,2017

    Sonoma County did not consider using mass cellphone alerts to warn of fires, top emergency official says


    JULIE JOHNSON
    THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 18, 2017




    Long before Oct. 8, when more than a dozen wildfires erupted across Sonoma County, including a deadly blaze that would grow into California’s most destructive inferno, county emergency officials knew they had a tool that could force targeted warning messages onto the cellphones of people in harm’s way.

    They did not, however, consider using that tool in the disaster, a new disclosure made last week by the county’s top emergency services executive.

    Last year, when the county first evaluated the government notification system, used to broadcast Amber Alert messages and other emergency notices, Christopher Helgren, the county’s emergency services manager, decided it had little use during local disasters. He said he wasn’t confident in the system’s ability to send geographically targeted messages to an area smaller than the whole county.

    So when the fires broke out last month within hours across Sonoma County, from Geyserville to Lakeville, the county’s five staff members trained to send a forced message to cellphones didn’t even discuss whether to use the Wireless Emergency Alert system to warn people in the fires’ path, Helgren said in an phone interview Thursday.

    Instead, they and other emergency personnel sent dozens of messages through opt-in cellphone and landline programs that reached a much smaller fraction of people in the county.

    “It was determined in the case of the Emergency Alert System (for TV and radio) and Wireless Emergency Alert (for cellphones) that they are tools to be used for a wide-alerting application for a disaster where you want to reach large areas of people, such as a tornado and a hurricane,” Helgren said. “It was determined there was little specific application for those alerts in our county.”

    His explanation marked the first detailed public comments by a county emergency services executive since the first week of the fires about the county’s controversial decision not use the Amber Alert-style warnings to notify people about the wind-driven firestorm that night. The fires would burn 142 square miles of Sonoma County, kill 23 people here and destroy more than 5,100 homes.

    Helgren said the strategy was to send targeted messages, via the opt-in programs run through Nixle and SoCo Alerts, to smaller groups of residents in immediate danger. A wider broadcast to all cellphones, he said, ran the risk of prompting people not under threat of fire to evacuate and clog the roads for emergency responders and those in danger.

    But officials with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, California Office of Emergency Services and the software company that created the system capable of sending Wireless Emergency Alerts said the main cellphone companies have been able to send geographically targeted government alerts since 2013.

    That was done in Lake County last month when fire threatened homes in Clearlake and Clearlake Oaks. Lake County sheriff’s officials sent multiple warnings about the blaze — which eventually burned about 2,207 acres and destroyed nearly 140 homes — with Wireless Emergency Alert messages that night, the first at 2:15 a.m. Oct. 9 and pushed to about 840 cellphones, sheriff’s officials said.

    To read the full story click HERE.

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  3. TopTop #2
    jesswolfe's Avatar
    jesswolfe
     

    Re: Sonoma Officials Neglected to Use Mass Cell Phone Alerts to Warn of Fires

    Thanks for posting this. I got no alerts at all. I’m not in one of the fire areas but let’s be really frank. Many people who don’t live directly in the fire areas were also affected. We all interact with services in Santa Rosa, like Kaiser (I had an appt at Kaiser the day the fire started). We know people in the path of the fire. I didn’t even know about Nixle till a friend told me. There was no info online the first day, so I couldn’t find out what was going on. I had a family member on the streets in Santa Rosa who needed to be retrieved to a safe place. Any alerts would have been greatly appreciated. Even an Amber alert would have been great. No info is not ok.

    In those first couple of days it was chaos with everyone afraid. I think their future response to a disaster needs to be re-evaluated. We are all dealing with some level of trauma from the fires. The lack of information in the beginning was a big addition to that trauma, whether we lost our homes or not.

    Jessica

    Last edited by Barry; 12-30-2017 at 09:55 AM.
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  4. TopTop #3
    juna
     

    Re: Sonoma Officials Neglected to Use Mass Cell Phone Alerts to Warn of Fires

    Right after the fires, the Sonoma Emergency Manager was interviewed by NBC in SF:

    Sonoma Emergency Manager Opted Out of Activating Mass Cell Phone Alert for Fire Evacuations

    Juna
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  5. TopTop #4
    Hot Compost
     

    Re: Sonoma Officials Neglected to Use Mass Cell Phone Alerts to Warn of Fires

    Quote Posted in reply to the post by juna: View Post
    Right after the fires, the Sonoma Emergency Manager was interviewed by NBC in SF:

    Sonoma Emergency Manager Opted Out of Activating Mass Cell Phone Alert for Fire Evacuations

    Juna

    In one or more of the many articles on the subject, county or city officials stated that they were reluctant to use the cell phone alert system because they didn't want to panic people.

    HOPEFULLY, there were multiple groups of people working in official capacity, and they're all telling the truth - some wanted to use the mass alert system, some didn't.

    I say hopefully because otherwise it means they're changing their stories (descriptions of what happened) over time.


    In any case, it was one of the biggest cluster-fvcks I've ever witnessed. One human mistake leading to another human mistake leading to another, a terrible example of a "Domino effect". With the mistakes being spread over time, not all on the night of October 8/9.

    In the fires in December in San Diego and then Ventura/Santa Barbara, responsible officials used the cell phone alert system, and it appears to have been very helpful.

    One fire-fighter death, one citizen death, and in some reports 2 prison inmate firefighter deaths that are strangely omitted from other accounts of casualties from the fires.
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