As part of National Preparedness Month and to further highlight the City of San Diego's increased ability to respond to emergencies, Mayor Jerry Sanders unveiled the city's new Reverse 911 emergency notification call system. The system can deliver emergency messages to as many as 240,000 households and businesses in an hour.

This web-based, community-alert notification system is designed to make mass telephone calls to the public in a timely manner during emergencies or disasters. The system uses a combination of databases and GIS mapping technologies to quickly target and effectively disseminate emergency notification calls to a precise geographic area.

The San Diego purchased Reverse 911 as another tool to rapidly broadcast emergency notifications to the public in the event of an emergency. The system hardware, software and three-year contract cost $180,000. The system was paid for with Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) Homeland Security grant funds.

When activated, the Reverse 911 system uses the 911 telephone database to initiate a voice mail broadcasted message via landline telephones to San Diego residents and businesses in the affected areas. A taped message delivers instructions on how to proceed during the ongoing emergency. Individuals using non-landline cellular and VoIP phones can also register their numbers online to receive the emergency calls. Persons using a TTY/TDD phone system will also receive Reverse 911 notifications.

Reverse 911 would only be activated for the following emergency notifications:

  • Evacuation notices
  • Imminent or perceived threat to health, life or property within the City of San Diego
  • Disaster notifications
  • Public safety tests to verify data accuracy and system operability

Activation Process

  • An incident occurs and is reported.
  • Reported incidents are routed to the San Diego Police Department Watch Commander.
  • The Watch Commander initiates the relay of information through a prescribed chain of command.
  • The information ultimately flows to the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for Public Safety and Homeland Security (DCOO).
  • The DCOO notifies and consults with the Mayor, Chief Operating Officer, and Communications Director (Executive Team).
  • Executive Team makes the decision to issue or not issue the Reverse 911 call.
  • A series of final organizational steps are followed until the message is ultimately launched by the San Diego Police Department Communications Division.