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L.A. County launches new alert system

June 18, 2009 4:23:44 AM PDT
Los Angeles county officials Thursday launched an emergency alert system, similar to reverse 911, that will notify residents and businesses by phone, text or e-mail about dangerous conditions in their area.Residents and businesses will be contacted if there are emergencies like wildfires or floods near their home or offices, and tell them whether evacuation is necessary.

The Alert L.A. County system is so precise that it will notify neighbors in the vicinity of a home where a hostage situation is in progress, according to Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

"This alert system will be particularly valuable in areas of my district in the Santa Monica Mountains that are vulnerable to fast-moving fires during high-risk weather conditions," he said.

Fire Chief Michael Freeman agreed.

"It will give us one more tool to keep the public safe," he said.

The Sheriff Department's Emergency Communications Center will be responsible for sending out the alerts. The county's seven million listed and unlisted land-line phone numbers have already been programmed into the system.

Members of the public who would rather receive the emergency notification via their cell phone or e-mail account will have to register that information through the alert.lacounty.gov Web site.

They also have the option of registering their fax numbers and voice- over IP lines. But only one phone number or e-mail address may be entered per street address.

If the number is busy or does not answer, the system will be re-dialed twice. If it reaches an answering machine, the system leaves a message.

The system has the ability to detect and communicate with telecommunication devices for the deaf.

Sheriff Lee Baca said the alert system is effective and efficient, but people should not rely exclusively on a call for evacuation orders if they believe they are in danger.

The alert system will cost Los Angeles County $1.9 million for the next five years. Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Knabe said it was tested in each of the five supervisorial districts on May 18th, and the results were impressive.

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