SAN DIEGO – County and law enforcement officials announced Monday they will use the federal Wireless Emergency Alert system to send information to cellular phones.
The Wireless Emergency Alert system is a new way the county plans to notify residents in an emergency, and it’s critical that people understand the system so they can respond appropriately to protect themselves when they receive an alerts on their phones.
“Our goal here is to reach the entire community. Everybody, it seems like in this day and age, has that cell phone either in their pocket, on their hip or in their purse,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.
Gore said the alerts will be vital during natural disasters, especially with evacuations — and peak fire season is just ahead.
The cell alerts will be 90-character messages with basic information and instructions for people in harm’s way.
The alerts will be transmitted from cell towers to phones in targeted emergency areas. Not only residents, but also visitors in those areas will get the messages.
“When one of those messages comes through, you have to take an action in order to get that message to go away. They wanted to make sure people acknowledge the message,” said Holly Crawford with the County Office of Emergency Services.
The first county-wide alert was last month — when an Amber Alert was issued in the Hannah Anderson abduction case. Many people were startled and annoyed by the alert.
People can disable the system on their phones. Officials hope they won’t.
“We will use this system judiciously and use it only when we feel it’s necessary to protect lives and public safety here in San Diego County,” said Gore.
People do not have to sign up for the service and they will not be charged for alerts.