Tag: iAlert

Keeping Up With Breaking News


Does Your City or Local Police Department Have a Mass Alert System?

Last month we talked about the “Lone Wolf” terrorist and the random nature of such attacks. While there is little, if anything, that authorities can do to predict or prevent these attacks, some cities are instituting a Mass Alert Notification System . . . a message distribution system to get the word out immediately when something does happen.

Basic Level

Actually, most cities have a basic telephone notification system; the most popular one is called Reverse 911®. When an emergency happens or threatens, authorities can automatically send out a recorded phone message to all or some of the phone numbers found in the database within that geographic area. If the line is busy, the phone will redial several times in an attempt to leave its message. The important limitation to Reverse 911 is that it only goes to landlines.

If you do not have a landline, or are not home or at a work number when the call goes out,
you will miss the message.

Enhanced System

Opt-in for mass messaging service iAlert

How will they reach you?

Our city has enrolled in an enhanced mass messaging system, called “iAlert.” This is an opt-in program; you go online and sign up for the service and the message comes to you three ways, depending on which options you sign up for.

First, it comes by recorded telephone call to the primary or work telephone number you provide. (This can be a landline, a VOIP line, or a cell phone number.)

You will also receive an email to the email address you give, and finally, the message comes as an SMS text message to your smart  or mobile phone. The only cost is the SMS charge is for the standard data cost imposed by your cell phone carrier when you receive a text message.

IAlert messages can also be sent to hearing-impaired receiving devices.


Useful, Targeted Messages

On more than one occasion we have received notifications of missing persons, suspected active shooter situations and alerts to fires in progress. Our CERT team has also received activation alerts.

If your local authorities provide this service, you can likely sign up for it on the city’s website. If not, you may want to inquire at your local Police Department of their interest in providing the service in the future.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

CERT in Action!


CERT activates for a Missing Child

CERT volunteers

CERT Volunteers get their assignment. Photo thanks to OC Register and Lt. Bill Whalen of Irvine PD

Two weeks ago, at 9:30 at night, our phone began to ring. At the same time, my cell phone buzzed and a message came up on my computer screen: “This is not a test.”

Irvine police were calling on their volunteer support teams, including CERT, to respond to an emergency – a missing child. He had left home around 7 p.m., and disappeared into the night. The police department had already been searching on foot, with dogs and a helicopter, to no avail.

The police decided to activate their volunteers. According to the newspaper account, the Lieutenant in charge expected about 10 people to show up. They did, within 10 minutes. Within the next two hours, 130 people showed up!

The volunteers included members of both CERT, which is over 600 strong in Irvine, and IDEC, the Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications (amateur radio volunteers). Groups combed the area until 2:15 a.m. Police also used footage from local buses to try to capture information about the boy.

Ultimately, he emerged from a movie theatre in an adjoining town, and prevailed on a helpful citizen to take him home.

Take-aways from the event, according to the police:

  • The iAlert system for this community works. (I can attest to that! Read more about the iAlert program here: Severe Weather Alerts)
  • Regular trainings for CERT volunteers have kept the group engaged and willing to participate. (Irvine CERT holds regular, nearly monthly, trainings and community service activities.)
  • Organizers were hard-pressed to manage the number of volunteers that showed up. It was unprecedented.

A CERT simulation for this exact scenario had been scheduled for later this month, but it was cancelled. The real thing was better than any simulation would have been.

As an aside, here in our local neighborhood, another six people have signed up to take the no-cost city-sponsored CERT training that starts in July. It consists of 8 evening sessions, in which people review basic first aid, search and rescue and disaster psychology. Graduates get the chance to handle tools, practice with a fire extinguisher, and come out with a kit bag full of emergency equipment including flashlight, hard hat, dust mask and gloves.

Action item: Interested in CERT training in YOUR community? Head to the FEMA website’s State Directory at: www.FEMA.gov/community-emergency-response-teams .