New system provides San Diegans emergency text alerts

By Brittany Carava


Cell phones are increasingly becoming the most necessary accessory of the modern age. This is advantageous for a new program that the San Diego County Sheriff Department is now utilizing to alert locals when disaster strikes,” says San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore,“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.”

The Federal Wireless Emergency Alert system is now being utilized in San Diego County to alert both residents and visitors alike. The alerts are transmitted from cell towers to phones in targeted emergency areas. Officials hope that these 90 character messages will help create better communication during emergency situations such as wildfires or earthquakes, when evacuation notices need to be sent out. Areas of San Diego such as Alpine, Julian, and Scripps Ranch are prone to wildfires; this alert system will help in aiding residents get to safety.

Already proving to be a success, the SD Sheriff’s Department was able to use this system in August when an Amber Alert was issued for missing teenager Hannah Anderson. With the help of this technology, incidents such as this are hoped to be more quickly resolved. “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,” Sheriff Gore said.

Although these messages can be disabled, officials are hoping that residents and visitors heed the warnings. “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,” Holly Crawford said, with the County Office of Emergency Services.

On a national scale, these text alerts have been in effect since January. According to an article published in USA Today, “The alert system can also send imminent-threat alerts for natural and man-made disasters, and alerts from the president. A cell phone user can opt out of the first two but not presidential alerts.” A cell phone user can have these notifications disabled if they contact their service provider.

However, as helpful as these alerts are for emergency situations, people may find it frightening to have these alerts appear on their screen. “Receiving the Amber Alert was really scary, it freaked both my mom and I out,” junior Shannon Merrill said. “However, I think it is important for everyone to be aware of what is going on locally.”

Some may even find this alert system an invasion of privacy. “I feel that it is unconstitutional because it violates our privacy,” junior Jesse O’Neil said. “It seems like this would just support the notion that the government can get to us at anytime.”

This new alert system simply hopes to improve communication between residents and officials along with providing a way for San Diegans to be aware of what is going on in their community.