The Sonoma County sheriff’s office urged residents on Wednesday to sign up for the county’s emergency alert system because it cannot automatically target cellphones, as it can land lines.
Sonoma County sheriff Rob Giordano said at a press conference Wednesday that residents need to sign up for SoCoAlert on their cellphones to receive emergency notifications from police and other first responders.
"We have systems that will call land lines for block of areas," Giordano said at the press conference. "But now without land lines, if you don’t sign your cellphone up, you don’t get that service."
He added: "The message is sign up for SoCoAlert if you live in the county because then it sends the message to your cellphone just like your house phone."
Residents can sign up for the alert system on the county's website, and will be alerted to evacuations and boil water advisories, among other emergency notifications.
Residents can also recieve emergency alerts via text message by signing up for Nixle, a private service that sends alerts to users based on zip code.
Nixle will send emergency alerts over text, voice call and email, the Mercury News reported.
On Sunday night, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office sent its first alert via Nixle, to warn residents of several fires. About 10 minutes later, law enforcement sent out the first mandatory evacuation orders.
Giordano also said 73 cell towers are down between Sonoma County and Oregon. Cellphone service in the area is spotty, but still operational, he said.
He also urged residents to follow local media, who will be updated by emergency personnel throughout the day.
The fires thus far have ravaged Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Mendocino and Lake counties, destroying at least 2,000 homes and businesses and forcing tens of thousands of North Bay residents to evacuate. Officials have confirmed 17 fatalities.