Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

email print
News: 10/15/2018

Emergency test results a mixed bag

Sonoma County’s testing of alert and warning systems in September is a good news, not-so-good news story.

Part of the good news is that, thanks to publicity surrounding the testing, the county’s own emergency alert system, SoCoAlert, saw a significant increase in people signing up for the free service.

In early September, SoCoAlert had 36,314 subscribers. In late September, almost two weeks after the testing, there were 50,167, an increase of 38 percent. People signed up for SoCoAlert can receive emergency messages by phone, text, and email (go to to sign up).

On Sept. 10, the county sent out a test to all SoCoAlert subscribers, as well as making a call to all the land lines in the county (over 290,000), informing them of an upcoming test of the federal emergency testing systems in two days.

The not-so-good news is the spotty results of that Sept. 12 activation of the federal Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system, a test which targeted five different geographic areas to represent different threat hazards, topography, and demographics. The Kenwood/Glen Ellen area was one of the areas where emergency test texts went out, selected due the proximity of homes to wildland fire risk.

Other WEA tested areas were Guerneville, Healdsburg, Penngrove and Roseland.

Texts were sent out in both English and Spanish.

Following the WEA, the federal Emergency Alert System (EAS) was activated, sending a test message to participating local radio and television stations.

Anecdotal evidence right after the wireless test indicated that some in geographically targeted wireless test areas successfully received the text, while others did not, often depending on the cell carrier.

A county report on the testing efforts released in early October found that the two most common mobile phone carriers in Sonoma County, AT&T and Verizon, have different methods, policies and algorithms for distributing wireless emergency alerts.

The report said that Verizon told the county that they require a cell phone to be within the boundaries of the alert area in order to broadcast the alert. AT&T had a large “bleed over,” stated the report, where the message also went outside the targeted area. For example when the test message went out to the Kenwood/Glen Ellen area, it was also received in other parts of Sonoma Valley as well as in Rohnert Park.

According to the report, “The differences in how the telecommunications providers distribute WEA messages causes significant issues for alert and warning officials… Inconsistent policies amongst telecommunications providers for issuing alerts is challenging for emergency management officials to target specific areas with confidence.”

To provide feedback, a link to an online survey was included in the WEA alert, as well as available online to those who didn’t receive one. There were 3,678 responses.

Overall, county emergency officials said the testing has helped identify the specific strengths and weaknesses of the alert systems, which will help them come up with a comprehensive improvement plan, which is now being developed.

“The focus of the test was on technology, but in reality, that’s just one part of the toolkit, and we learned it’s not 100 percent reliable,” said Chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors James Gore. “This exercise should be a call to all Sonoma County residents to talk to your neighbors, build a kit, and know your evacuation plan.”

To review the report, go to

Editor & Publisher

Recently Published:

11/15/2018 - Glen Ellen Inn to go before SVCAC
11/15/2018 - Parks measure passage will create steady funding source
11/15/2018 - Gorin seeks residents for committee spots
11/15/2018 - Sonoma Valley post-fire survey of historic resources available online
11/15/2018 - Glen Ellen fire district gets big win with Measure T
11/15/2018 - Opening on valley groundwater panel
11/15/2018 - Wind sparks Adobe Canyon fire despite day-long tree trimming spree
11/15/2018 - GE Forum drafting new by-laws
11/15/2018 - House of Happy Walls Museum re-opens
11/15/2018 - And the winner is …
11/15/2018 - Congressman in the house...
11/15/2018 - Get ready for Community Potluck
11/15/2018 - Fire Safe Council formed in Mayacamas
11/01/2018 - Renovated House of Happy Walls reopens this month
11/01/2018 - Women of the world unite!

Community Calendar

SIR members to hear from tourism chief
Bill & Dave hike Trione-Annadel
Redwood Empire Food Bank’s Station 3990 food giveaway
Oakmont Farmers Market
The Free Bookmobile of Sonoma County
Mushroom Hike, 10 a.m.-noon
30 years of the Kenwood Press
‘Band of Seniors’ returns to Oakmont
Wreath workshop at Quarryhill
Commemorate Jack London’s death
Kenwood Community Church service

Weather Underground PWS KCAKENWO2