California officials on Tuesday, December 8, sent out an emergency phone alert to mobile phones statewide to inform county residents about the state’s Regional Stay-at-Home Order. The alert urged residents to stay home and that “COVID-19 is spreading rapidly.”
While some questioned its use, the fact is, it is well within the state’s authority to use the system in the manner it did, especially given the drastic measures that are now being taken across the state to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic raging in the state that is seeing some communities at 100% hospitalizations and ICU beds.
There is no evidence that the WEA had a negative impact on 9-1-1 Call Centers or created confusion on local Code Red Alerts. If anything, today’s alarm appeared to have been met by the public with a collective yawn.
The Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) was sent in the following Southern California counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura.
Again, there is no evidence whatsoever that the use of the WEA, especially in this instance, has “conflicted” or been confused with Code Red Alert systems used in counties nor has it resulted in the “flood of calls to 9-1-1” that could overwhelm local EMS, law enforcement or other emergency response. If anything, it appears that most of the public has enough intelligence to tell the difference between the different types of alerts they receive over their mobile phones.
There was a clear difference between how Sheriff Jeff Hollowell in Inyo County and Sheriff Ingrid Braun in Mono County responded to the announcement by the state that it was going to issue the alert. Hollowell appeared to make what, to some, was yet another political statement questioning the authority of the state as they attempt to control the current COVID-19 pandemic as he has in the past on the health order on enforcement of wearing face coverings and unauthorized gatherings, while Sheriff Braun simply notified the residents in Mono County that the WEA was going to take place without comment.
The state’s OES is concerned over the most recent statistics on COVID-19, including data on intensive care unit (ICU) capacity. Southern California has dropped below 15% capacity which has triggered the regional stay-at-home orders. Several counties in California are at 100% capacity, hence the urgency being shown at the state level.
Following is the press announcement from the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office:
Press Release: INYO COUNTY SHERIFF, December 8, 2020 – The State of California, Office of Emergency Services, pursuant to the Governor’s Order will be issuing a WEA (Wireless Emergency Alert) text today at noon. This alert will go out to all Counties who are under a “Stay at Home” order.
State Sheriffs were advised yesterday (Dec. 7) at 4:30pm of the alert. Even though Emergency Managers and Law Enforcement were not involved in the discussions regarding the alert, we were informed we had no control. Across this state, Emergency Managers and Law Enforcement are dealing with potential Public Safety Power Shutoffs, Red Flag warnings and the potential for wildland fires. We urged the Governor not to conduct the alert as the message could be conflicting with emergency evacuation orders. WEA is supposed to be used for emergencies.
The primary concern is the potential for conflicting alerts if an actual emergency occurs. If you receive the WEA, please do not call 9-1-1 or County offices for clarifications. You can call the California Office of Emergency Services at (916) 845- 8510.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Office will continue to advise citizens and visitors via Code Red, IPAWS (Integrated Public Alert Warning Service), or WEA in the event of an emergency. The message will clearly state it’s from the Sheriff’s Office.