SONOMA COUNTY (CBS13) – Sonoma County chose not to send wireless emergency alerts to cell phones during the Tubbs Fire last year, which led to criticism over the evacuation plan.
Shasta County used cell phone alerts for the Carr Fire and may send more as the fire moves. It’s a new strategy because California are wildfires growing bigger and moving faster than before.
A raging wildfire gave rush hour a whole new meaning at the Carr Fire as thousands of cars left Redding. The alerts to leave came from the Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko.
“Our primary mission is the evacuation of the residents of the affected areas,” said Bosenko.
He says 38,000 people have been evacuated with the help of technology.
“We’re using…Code Red, which is reverse 911, crawlers across the TV, the social media emergency alert system, and the integrated public warning system,” he said.
One of those assets, a government push notification called a wireless emergency alert that sends messages directly into cell phones in specific geographic areas even if those owners have never signed up for notifications.
Sonoma county chose not to use the same type of wireless alert last year during the Wine Country Fires. They were concerned it would make traffic jams worse during the evacuation.
The move was heavily criticized.
California’s office of emergency services published a report on Sonoma’s alert and warning program, with recommendations.
“We always do after-action reports to look at how could it have been done better,” said Cal OES Deputy Director Kelly Huston.
Cal OES is now developing a statewide alert and warning policy for local agencies to follow.
“We need your attention now, and there’s some urgent action that you should be taking to get out of harm’s way,” said Huston.
As California wildfires grow worse, how and where to send warnings and alerts is a work in progress.
Its almost always up to individual counties to decide when to send out these wildfire warnings. The state has only issued one warning. That was last year when six southern California counties were in wildfire danger at the same time.