Why Doesn’t Los Angeles Have Reverse 911?

During the recent earthquake here in Los Angeles, I found myself mildly spooked.  Not because of the quake itself, nono – after all, I had, since I moved to LA, wished for exactly this kind of quake.  “I want a quake,” I told friends, “just strong enough for me to experience one [I’d never felt one before], but mild enough so no one gets hurt.”  The quake of a couple of weeks ago was exactly what I’d ordered.

Courtesy: US Geological Survey
Courtesy: US Geological Survey

But, since I live in Venice, within what the city calls a “Tsunami Red Zone,” I thought it would be cool to know if there was any kind of tsunami warning.  Luckily I had power and an internet connection, because I quickly ascertained (via various news sources) that there was no such warning.

Digging deeper, I realized I had no way to know this had I been without power, or dead asleep, or driving, or under any other circumstance less than ideal for receiving that kind of urgent warning, where 30-60 seconds of extra time could clearly make the difference between life and death.

I surfed the City of Los Angeles’ Emergency Management Web site, wondering if there was some way I could sign up for alerts of any kind.  Nothing.  I called them a few days later.  No, sir, we don’t have a system like that in place, I’m afraid. The lady I spoke with quickly volunteered, “but neither does New York City,” as if that would somehow make me feel better.

How hard could it be to implement something like this? I realize it’s probably much more difficult than whiners like me would make it out to be, but there must be a solution. It was very hard to get a cell phone call (in or out) in the aftermath of the quake, so maybe this would put more pressure on already-strained infrastructure. Although I’m not a Verizon customer, I found it disturbing – and revealing – when Verizon spokesperson Ken Muche told cNet that their quake call volume was “about 40 percent higher than our projections of what we might experience in a natural disaster.” Then, Ken: please adjust your projections.

If I’m asleep at 0230 and there’s a tsunami warning, I’d like to be awakened.  Ideally that means my phone rings, but really anything that gets my sorry ass moving would be welcome.

I checked my AT&T wireless bill.  I pay $17 per month in taxes, and $12 of it goes directly to the City of Los Angeles.  I’d really love to know where this $12 is going, and if we might direct a bit of it toward something as critical as this.

Or, technologists: maybe we can talk about ways to solve the problem directly, and fuggetabout the damn telcos.  Ideas?

10 thoughts on “Why Doesn’t Los Angeles Have Reverse 911?”

  1. Especially considering one of the most advanced companies, http://www.ntigroup.com with that type of technology is based in Sherman Oaks, or at least was until they were acquired last year.

    (Disclosure – they were a client of mine when I was at a previous PR firm several years ago)

  2. Interesting. Even many of the small towns on the Oregon coast have the air-raid style of warning system for tsunamis, albeit a very loud recording of cows mooing. Of course, I’m not trying to compare infrastructure of Cannon Beach with LA, but ya know…

  3. I missed the quake by 6 hours ! 🙁
    I am only upset because this would have made me stay in CA for another day! booo hooo

  4. There are a number of reverse 911 companies out there. The type of system that can send a voice message to thousands even millions of recipients in the event of an emergency. I'm sure a service like this is on the agenda for the county but severe budget crisis is the likely culprit.

    I work with AlertNow that does this type of work with schools but now seeing that some counties and law enforcement agencies are looking into this type of service from us.

  5. There are a number of reverse 911 companies out there. The type of system that can send a voice message to thousands even millions of recipients in the event of an emergency. I'm sure a service like this is on the agenda for the county but severe budget crisis is the likely culprit.

    I work with AlertNow that does this type of work with schools but now seeing that some counties and law enforcement agencies are looking into this type of service from us.

  6. There are a number of reverse 911 companies out there. The type of system that can send a voice message to thousands even millions of recipients in the event of an emergency. I'm sure a service like this is on the agenda for the county but severe budget crisis is the likely culprit.

    I work with AlertNow that does this type of work with schools but now seeing that some counties and law enforcement agencies are looking into this type of service from us.

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