California Emergency Alert Standards Move Forward in Legislature

A bill requiring statewide standards around emergency alert notifications has advanced following a unanimous vote in the State Senate.

by Julie Johnson, The Press Democrat / June 8, 2018
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(TNS) — A bill that would require all counties follow statewide standards for how and when to warn people about emergencies, including wildfires, floods and earthquakes, is heading to the Assembly after clearing the Senate last week.

Senate Bill 833 passed with a unanimous and bipartisan vote on May 31.

Spurred by the lack of effective public alerts in October when wildfires burned into communities across Northern California, North Coast lawmakers, including state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, wrote the legislation to require local emergency officials follow first-ever statewide standards for public warnings.

The bill would ensure counties have an emergency alert program capable of pushing messages to cellphones and spreading messages through other means, such as radio and television.

In October, Sonoma County officials and emergency mangers relied on opt-in emergency warning systems that failed to reach and warn most people about fires heading into their neighborhoods. The county’s failures were underscored in a state report, which found emergency officials were unprepared and had an outdated understanding of technology.

“The night of October 8 changed the lives of North Bay residents forever, when tens of thousands of residents were caught unaware that a massive wildland fire was about to engulf their home or business, because they did not receive an emergency alert,” McGuire said in a statement. “While there are hundreds of harrowing stories of bravery that night, regrettably, thousands of residents never received a warning.”

The bill was co-authored by McGuire and other North Coast lawmakers, including state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa; and assemblymembers Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, and Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters.

©2018 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.