Keep these online resources handy in case of floods, fires, quakes and other disasters
Workers clean up after flooding in Capitola Village. Rosangela Perry Shutterstock
Residents of California are no strangers to disaster, whether it comes in the form of raging wildfires, overflowing creeks, towering waves, rumbling mudslides or rocking faultlines. (And of course there’s always the spectre of megadrought lurking.) We all know we need to have a “go bag” packed and ready. But we also can prepare by keeping crucial information right at our fingertips—just one touch away on our smartphones. And should those smartphones run out of juice or out of cell range, we’ve also listed information sources for radio and television.
One key element in being prepared is to sign up for CodeRED, a community notification system that sends crucial messages in emergency situations. The system is used by Santa Cruz Regional 9-1-1, a joint powers authority that handles 911 calls and emergency response in the cities and unincorporated areas of Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
Residents can register landlines, cell phones and VoIP phones with CodeRED to receive alerts. The first step is to create a managed account and register your phone lines. It’s also a good idea to add the phone number (866) 419-5000 to your contacts so that the source of the calls and texts will be identifiable.
The second step is to download the CodeRED Mobile Alert app to your smartphone. The app provides location-specific alerts to residents as they travel across the United States and Canada—complete with maps that show the location of nearby warning areas. Click here to download the CodeRED Mobile Alert app for either iOS or Android. And if you have any problems signing up, you can call (866) 939-0911 to reach technical support.
In an emergency, there’s no such thing as too much information. 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. Santa Cruz County residents can register at this link for alerts from local agencies. 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.
You can also sign up for Nixle quickly by texting your ZIP code to 888777 to opt in for text messages.
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.”)
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. Santa Cruz County residents should tune their NOAA radio to the nearest channels: San Francisco (162.400), Monterey (162.550) and Monterey Marine (162.450). Find additional information on this PDF produced by Santa Cruz County.
Old-fashioned terrestrial radio and television stations make up an important part of the country’s emergency alert system. KSCO (1080 AM) is the official local emergency broadcast station, but information can also be found on KSQD; listen on the airwaves at 90.7 FM or via livestream at KSQD.org. Other local stations include KPIG (107.5 FM) and KZSC (88.1 FM). Also watch for alerts on these television stations: KSBW (Channel 8) and KION 46 KION (Channel 46).
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.
When it comes to getting around in a disaster, California Local offers real-time assistance with our Santa Cruz Traffic & Transportaion overview page. In addition to a highway map marked with incidents and alerts, the page features links to information on Highway 17, Caltrans roadwork, road closures, and transportaion services.
One of the best of these—definitely worthy of its own bookmark—is Santa Cruz County’s Current Road Advisories site, updated continually to show road closures, highway construction areas, and hazardous situations such as fallen trees, flooding or downed utility poles.
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.
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.