Friday, March 11, 2011

Lesson Learned Today: Sign up Cell and VoIP Phones to Receive Warnings Now!

In response to tsunami alerts issued this morning on the West Coast, emergency officials activated outdial warning systems, more commonly referred to as 'reverse 911'. We have a reverse 911 system in Southwest Washington as well and we have used it successfully on several occasions . It has the capacity to send as many as 1000 calls per minute. We've used it to inform people of floods, to help find missing persons, and to get out other urgent messages. It's become an extremely valuable tool to us and it has the potential to save your life.

We also heard news reports this morning that some coastal residents never got the reverse 911 warning. There could be a number of reasons for that but we suspect that the most likely culprit is that the phone numbers that reverse 911 called may not have included cellular and VoIP (internet phone) subscribers. As is common with these systems, the phone record information in our reverse 911 system only includes traditional landline subscribers. Databases of landline phone numbers, including unlisted phone numbers, are readily available to us to use for emergency notification. But many of you reading this or others that you know may be part of the national trend away from traditional landline phone service toward low cost VoIP phones or to the exclusive use of your cell phone.

It's important to understand that if you rely on a VoIP or cellular phone that, unless you take action, you will not receive reverse 911 warnings. In order to have your VoIP or cellular phone number added to the database used by our reverse 911 system, you need to register your number with us. To date, very few people have registered their VoIP and cellular phones. In Clark County, only about 800 have registered their numbers (in a county with a population of 435,000!!). We need people to act now to register their VoIP and cellular numbers. The process is quick and easy and your number will only be used for emergency purposes by public safety officials. Register your phone now by going to CRESA's Emergency Community Notification Sign-Up Page.

Fortunately for coastal residents, the tsunami turned out to be fairly small and didn't cause many problems. It's also fortunate that this far inland we aren't at much risk for even the worst case tsunami. But we can have a number of incidents that can occur here where we would need to notify you quickly. Our warning system is an essential tool that we can use to rapidly provide every impacted person with critical life saving information. Please take steps today to ensure that you and your loved ones are ready to receive this information.

No comments: