By Jackie Ward

NAPA (KPIX 5) — Napa County unveiled its new emergency alert system Tuesday, which alerts people in the county whether or not they have signed up for alerts – but not before the system hit a snag.

A year after the wine country wildfires, the county was set to demonstrate the new text alert system at 9:30 a.m. But as the time came and went, there was uneasiness at the Board of Supervisors meeting where the new system was being highlighted.

About 25 minutes later, the text alert came through and was met with a round of applause.

County officials said it all came down to checking the right box, along with a little help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Nixle community notification system.

“We set up the test; we had selected one of the portal boxes incorrectly,” said Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan. “Fortunately, we were able to get FEMA on the phone and our support through Nixle and able to correct the box that needed to be appropriately identified for us to send that message out.”

Kerry Whitney, the county’s Risk and Emergency Services Manager, chalked up the slight delay to “one of those things” that officials are now up to speed with.

“I want to thank everyone for their patience, but we finally had to call FEMA directly, and there was a very specific nuance that we knew nothing about that they said, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what you had to do,” said Whitney.

Getting to this point, required the county to get certified through FEMA. Now, Napa County will be able to send alerts through Nixle and the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS).

The IPAWS alert was tweeted out this morning, too – but at 9:48 and not at 9:30 as originally expected.

“Having a test like IPAWS and a system like the wireless emergency alert system allows us to reach all cell phones in the area, regardless of area code, so tourists and visitors to Napa County will also receive emergency alert messages if we need to send them,” said Rattigan.

Prior to Tuesday, Napa County did not have this type of emergency alert system and only 22,700 of its more than 140,000 residents were signed up for Nixle alerts. Now, there are 170,000 Nixle subscribers.

But for this new Napa County system, there are no signups needed. If you and your cellphone are in the county, you should be able to receive the emergency alerts.

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