Fatal Wildfires Prompt New Statewide Emergency Alert Bill
North Bay legislators officially introduced a bill that will set statewide emergency alert protocols following the devastating firestorm that ravaged Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties, destroying over 6,000 homes, scorching more than 170,000 acres, causing billions in damage and resulting in the death of more than 40 residents.
“The size and scope of wild land fire events in California are only getting worse. It’s clear there are shortcomings in our emergency alert system and residents deserve timely notifications and up-to-date information,” Senator Mike McGuire (D-North Bay) said. “Lives depend on the Legislature and Governor taking swift action to ensure statewide emergency alert standards are adopted, training is implemented and funding is secured to ensure communities big and small have reliable alert systems deployed.”
SB 833, introduced this week by Senator McGuire, along with Joint authors Senators Bill Dodd and Jerry Hill, and Principal Co-Authors Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Marc Levine and Jim Wood, creates statewide emergency alert protocols.
There are several different emergency warning systems available to counties that alert residents through cell phone calls, text messages, and landline recordings. Some systems require residents to “opt-in” to the alert notifications, and others have limitations on how they can be targeted in specific areas.
SB 833 will require every county in California to adopt the up-to-date Wireless Emergency Alert system with trained operators who can implement an evacuation order using the alert system. The legislation will also set out standards for when counties should use the system, the legislation will mandate that alerts have to be sent out via landline telephones and mobile phones along with other communication mediums, it will advance communication between counties and the state at the start of a disaster and it will create guidelines and protocols for when and how the alerts should be sent.
“When wildfires and other disasters strike, it’s critical that impacted residents get emergency alerts as quickly as possible,” said Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa). “Regardless of where you live in California, everyone should be able to rely on a comprehensive, modern warning systems that gets information to the people who need it, when they need it. Emergency alerts can save lives, which is why Senator McGuire and I are partnering with our colleagues in the state Assembly to advance a system that meets our twenty-first century needs.”
“The raging wildfires endangering Californians across the state is without precedent. Lawmakers must protect our communities with the best safety notifications available to prevent loss of life during emergency situations,” said Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Marin County). “All California communities should have dependable emergency alert systems and be notified when lives are in danger.”
“The recent devastating fires in Northern California have put laser focus on our need to fix our emergency notification system,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg). As we now see with the fires in Southern California, the time is now to protect our residents with a system that works for everyone, both urban and rural.”
“As a Member of the Joint Committee on Emergency Management, we heard testimony this week on how critical it is for local governments to alert our mutual constituents in times of crisis,” said Assemblymember Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters). “I’m happy to join in this effort with my legislative and local government colleagues, and I look forward to continuing our work together that started during the North Bay wildfires. As the recovery continues, we must also stay vigilant to protect people in the event of future emergencies.”
“Last year’s fires exposed deadly problems in our emergency alert patchwork,” said Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties). “I applaud Senator McGuire for leading this effort to make sure that the state and local governments properly notify and evacuate residents to save lives during emergencies.”