Sonoma County Conducts Test of Emergency Alert System - NBC Bay Area
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Sonoma County Conducts Test of Emergency Alert System

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    Sonoma County Conducts Test of Emergency Alert System

    Officials in Sonoma County are taking action to prevent another tragedy nearly a year after the deadly and destructive North bay firestorm. Jean Elle reports. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018)

    Officials in Sonoma County are taking action to prevent another tragedy nearly a year after the deadly and destructive North bay firestorm.

    The county is working to figure out how to better warn people in the event of another dangerous wildfire.

    In a test of its alert system Monday, people in Santa Rosa called the emergency operations center after getting a test call from the SoCo Alert system. It took the county about three hours to make 290,000 calls, and planners said 51 percent of the calls connected to a person or a voicemail.

    It's the first time the Sonoma County Emergency Services Department is calling all land lines and the cellphones of people registered for SoCo alerts in Santa Rosa.

    "This is a test of what's the maximum capabilities of the system," said Christopher Godley, the county's Emergency Services manager. "Then we have to design our warning plans to fit the capability."

    It's part of an effort to improve emergency notifications.

    During the deadly October wildfires, officials say they sent the SoCo Alert, but fire damaged infrastructure, making delivery impossible in many cases. Plus, not many people had signed up for the alert.

    During Monday's test, it took 21 minutes for Virginia Bagley to get the test call.

    "I think it's important to get the word out," Bagley said. "Kudos. I think testing it now is the way to do it."

    Emergency planners say it took nearly three hours to complete the call list. Forty-nine percent of the numbers were called more than once and never connected, officials said.

    Some of the numbers may be disconnected, but planners are now looking into why alerts in those cases were not delivered.

    "In addition to the test, we encourage you to sign up for SoCo Alerts," Godley said.

    Planners also say they heard from people who didn't get an alert who haven't yet signed up.

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