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Keep these online resources handy in case of floods, fires, quakes and other disasters
Flooding on the Salinas River in 2023 brought economic hardship to farmers and snarled traffic.
David A Litman
Monterey County is a sprawling area with 12 municipalities and many unincorporated communities, stretching from the Big Sur coast to the Gabilan range, from the tourist meccas of Monterey Bay to the rich agricultural lands of the Salinas Valley. Disasters are not uncommon in this wild and varied terrain, whether they come in the form of raging wildfires, overflowing creeks, towering waves, rumbling mudslides or rocking faultlines. It’s a must to have a “go bag” packed and ready, but just as vital is to stay informed in any emergency. Fortunately, digital resources can be just one touch away on our smartphones. Here are some crucial digital emergency resources that you can download or bookmark.
First, make sure you’re signed up and receiving notifications from Alert Monterey County, using the Everbridge platform. You’ll be given the choice to receive alerts through landline phone calls, text messages on your cell phone, or pre-recorded voice messages and email. The system also works with telephone devices for the hearing impaired. Sign up online to receive alerts on your preferred device and in your preferred language. (To see the type of alerts you’ll be getting, check out this feed.) And if you work in another county and want to receive alerts from there as well, find links on CalAlerts.org.
Launched in 2007, NIXLE provides an “open communication forum” that connects more than 8,000 public safety agencies, municipalities, schools and other entities with members of the public. The notification service delivers texts, email and voice messages, as well as information through social media and the Nixle mobile app. Receive emails and text messages from local fire and law enforcement agencies that include public safety messages as well as emergency information. Text your zip code to 888777 to opt in for text messages or sign up online to receive email or text messages with alerts and advisories. And if you work in a different county, have a second home, or just want to stay apprised of emergency situations that may affect friends and relatives, you can sign up for alerts in other areas.
The Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act established Wireless Emergency Alerts in 2008 and it became operational in 2012. WEA is a national public safety system that allows customers with mobile devices to receive geographically targeted messages about imminent local threats. To activate WEA, make sure your cell phone is set up to accept emergency and public safety alerts. (According to the FCC, “Wireless service customers should check with their wireless service provider to find out if their cell phone or mobile device is WEA-capable. Not all wireless service providers offer WEA.”)
When it comes to getting around in a disaster, California Local offers real-time assistance with our Monterey County Traffic & Transportation overview page. In addition to a highway map marked with incidents and alerts, the page features links to information on Caltrans roadwork, road closures, and transportation services.
One of these—worthy of its own bookmark—is Monterey County’s Current Road Advisories site, updated continually to show road closures, highway construction areas, and other obstacles to travel.
Another source of data is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio alert system. When the radio is properly programmed, the National Weather Service can remotely turn it on and send basic alerts for floods and wildfires. NOAA Weather Radio receivers come in a variety of sizes and styles in electronics stores or online; the cost ranges from $25 to $100. To learn more, watch this NOAA Weather Radio Set-Up Video on YouTube. Monterey County residents should tune their NOAA radio to these channels: Monterey (Frequency 162.550) or Monterey Marine (Frequency 162.450).
Old-fashioned terrestrial radio and television stations also have an important role to play. The Emergency Alert System is a national public warning system that sends messages through broadcasters, satellite digital audio services, direct broadcast satellite providers, cable television systems, and wireless cable systems, typically accompanied by a special warning tone. The following radio stations will carry these notifications: KPIG 107.5 FM, KCBS 740 AM, KTOM 92.7 FM and KION 1460 AM. Also watch for alerts on these television stations: KSBW (Channel 8) and KION (Channel 46).
In an emergency, there’s no such thing as too much information. The following government agencies will be pumping out tweets and posts, so follow along.• Monterey County Department of Emergency Management on Facebook, X (Twitter) and Instagram.• Monterey County Health Department on Facebook and X (Twitter).• Monterey County Sheriff’s Department on Facebook and X (Twitter).• Monterey County also posts on Next Door.• San Benito-Monterey Unit of Cal Fire on Facebook and X (Twitter).• Gonzales Police Department on Facebook.• Greenfield Police Department on Facebook.• King City Police Department on Facebook.• Marina Police Department on Facebook.• Monterey Police Department on Facebook.• Pacific Grove Police Department on Facebook and X (Twitter).• Salinas Fire Department on Facebook.• Salinas Police Department on Facebook and X (Twitter).• Seaside Fire & Police on Facebook.• Soledad Fire Department on Facebook.
CodeRED messages and other alerts can help you stay safe, but if evacuation orders are issued, you need to know where your house or workplace is located. Find your zone by viewing this map. And bookmark Aware.Zonehaven.com on your phone and computer so you can monitor conditions when you are traveling.
Cal Fire, the state agency responsible for fighting California’s wildfires, offers tools that can be used via smartphone. Sign up for text alerts at Incidents.ReadyForWildfire.org. And if you’re on the move, bookmark Cal Fire’s statewide map of current fires at Fire.ca.gov/Incidents.
Fire and rain often come with another unwelcome side effect: power outages. To find out where the power is out and and how long it will be before the lights come back on, visit PG&E’s alerts page, which provides a map of current outage and future PSPS incidents. The site PrepareForPowerDown.com also offers information, and you can register by phone for Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) alerts in Monterey County by calling (877) 900-0PGE or texting ENROLL to 97633. If you are a medically vulnerable Californian, during a power shutoff, you can call (833) 284-3473 to find resources within your area from 9am to 9pm daily. Assistance is available in many languages.
Not too long ago, earthquakes came without any warning. Now, it is possible to get a little notice, thanks to a couple of apps. The QuakeAlertUSA app, from Early Warning Labs—available for free on the Apple App and Google Play stores—works in California and Oregon. Data detected by sensors managed by the United States Geological Survey determine the location and size of a quake, and the Early Warning Labs cloud server calculates individual alerts. Learn more: EarlyWarningLabs.com/mobile-app.
From UC Berkeley, the MyShake app is a citizen science project to build a global earthquake early warning network. The app, which monitors sensors on participants’ smartphones, is free in the Apple App and Google Play stores. Alerts are only available in California, Oregon and Washington at present, but folks around the world can participate. Learn more: MyShake.berkeley.edu.
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