Oh My Gosh, What's Going On?
By Richard Hannibal
Our recent Emergency Vehicle Show began the prior evening with a slow moving parade down the Embarcadero and through the downtown area. Like most parades—especially ones involving emergency vehicles—it is accompanied by occasional toots of sirens and air horns. This brief activity caused our police business and 9-1-1 lines to be inundated by concerned citizens wanting to know what was going on and, basically, if they should flee for their lives.
I cannot stress the importance of citizens NOT tying up our emergency telephone system simply to ascertain "what is going on." It happens during every emergency or major event.
Think about it. We usually have only one dispatcher on duty. In an emergency, this single dispatcher must coordinate police, fire, harbor patrol, and public works personnel in the field—plus deal with other, non-related 9-1-1 calls for service. Often, the coordination involves mutual aid and the multitude of other notifications and requests needed in an emergency. And, during these hectic times, citizens are calling "wondering what’s going on." I completely understand the concern of citizens, but there is a better way to get this information.
|In San Luis Obispo County we have Emergency Alert Radio Stations that you can tune to in the event of an emergency. In our area, tune to AM 920, AM 1400 or FM 98.1. In addition, there is AM 1620, which is specifically devoted to the Morro Bay area. So, if something peaks your concern, such as the sound of multiple sirens, tune to these stations. If there is a community-wide emergency, the information will be provided.
In addition to the Emergency Alert Radio Stations there is also the County’s REVERSE 9-1-1 system operated by the County Sheriff’s Office. The Morro Bay Police used this system during our recent Tsunami Event. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office dispatch facility has the capacity to inform the public directly by sending a phone message to each land-line phone in the county to inform persons of evacuation orders, missing persons, Amber Alerts, etc. Those residents who have only a cell phone or would like to be notified by cell phone may also sign up on the Sheriff’s website under Self Registration Portal.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions regarding this system:
- Do you already have my phone number? If you have conventional land line service to your home or office, even if it is unlisted, your number is automatically in the Reverse 911 data base.
- What if I have voice over internet service? If you have digital or internet telephone service, check with your phone provider to see if they are "E911 compliant" and that your account information is correct.
- Will my number be shared or sold? Absolutely not. Your number will only be used to communicate official messages.
- Can I add more than one cell phone number to my address? Use the Self Registration Portal to add cell phones to your actual address. The system will not accept Post Office boxes; it must be a real street address.
- I have call screening to discourage telemarketers. Will I receive Reverse 911? Perhaps. If your system simply requires a valid caller ID, we will get through. However, in a natural disaster or other emergency you should disable your blocking.
- I live in a remote area, sometimes my location is hard to find. The system is geographically based. Use the Self Registration Portal to increase your chances of being notified properly.
- What do I do if I have problems with registration? If you have problems with registration you can either leave a voice message at 805-788-6018 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: Reverse 9-1-1 is simply another tool to assist you in an emergency, but with any system, it may not be 100% effective. Please make sure you monitor the local Emergency Broadcast System provided by television and radio stations, while also checking the County Office of Emergency Services website for additional information during fires or other natural disasters.
Above all, please do not call your police department simply to find out "what is going on." That one moment taken away from the emergency could cost someone their life!