Oakland Revamps Emergency Alert System Following North Bay Wildfires

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — 26 years feels like a long time ago, but the North Bay fires give Oakland residents another reason to be in the know when in comes to fast moving flames.

Carolyn Burgess was one of the very first people to sign up for Oakland’s new alert system when it was just a pilot program a few months ago.

Burgess, with the North Hills Community Association said, “I have it on my cell phone and my home phone.”

It’s called AC alert and it’s operates as an automated emergency notification system.

Burgess lost her home in the 1991 firestorm.

“I lost everything. Lost my pets, ”Burgess said.

The city’s fire department sends out emergency notices to people affected by a fire in a specific area. The fire department says incident commanders in the field would decide on what kinds of alerts to send out, whether it’s shelter in place or evacuation orders.

Oakland Fire Department Spokeswoman Angela Robinson Pinon said, “If we don’t know how to reach you, we can’t alert you.”

But in Mendocino County, the recent fires knocked out most cell service and landlines.

Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman said, “The Sheriff’s Department had to get sat phones and ham radios.”

So what would happen in Oakland, since most people don’t have satellite phones or ham radios?

Pinon said, “It wouldn’t work. But we have a citywide siren system in place and officers would go door to door to alert people.”

The city has a siren system and can blast out the alerts as a last resort.

In the meantime, they’re hoping the people of Alameda County will go to acalert.org to sign up.

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