BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Several Berkeley residents who signed up to partake in a fire evacuation drill on Sunday never received the alert. The glitches left them questioning how a system that struggled with a scheduled event would respond in an actual emergency.
“We didn’t get a call, we kept waiting, we set our alarms to get up early on a Sunday morning,” Penny Kuykendall said. Without that alert, Kuykendall was left in the dark, slowed by outdated information as she and her husband tried to evacuate.
“It is a big worry. Communication is very, very important,” she said.
Berkeley Fire Department Chief Dave Brannigan says the city will learn important lessons from what went wrong in Sunday’s drill.
“Anybody who tells us that they didn’t get a message, we’ll look at their account and see if there was something about how they signed up or if it was a flaw in the system, not reaching them,” Brannigan said.
Sunday’s evacuation drill was the first of three planned by the city. The goal is straightforward, but potentially life-saving: to make sure people have a plan if a fire ever sweeps through the Berkeley hillsides.
“We lived through the 1983 fire, when we barely got out of our house in time, and we live in constant recollection and vigilance in regard to that. So I’m very glad to hear that they’re trying to prepare for it,” resident Alan Rinzler said.
“An important message we have for the public is that even if you haven’t heard from an official that it’s time to evacuate, if you’re not sure, if you see smoke, if you’re worried about the weather, go before you’re told to go,” Brannigan said.
The city has another drill scheduled for Sunday, August 11.