Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Goleta unveils new emergency system


In response to the aftermath of the Gap Fire and subsequent outcry for increased communication within the community, the City of Goleta announced the implementation of a new mass notification system yesterday capable of contacting residents in the case of an emergency.
The alert system, dubbed the ‘Goleta City Alert’, will allow City officials to contact compliant residents and local businesses with regard to time-sensitive incidents through LAN lines, cell phones PDAs, email accounts and TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired.

Goleta City Alert will allow officials to record, send and track personalized voice and text messages to thousands of residents on a whim, increasing the speed onto which the community can respond in the event of an emergency.
Goleta City Manager Daniel Singer said the implication of the new Goleta City Alert system is expected to become a vital emergency notification system for the City.
“Goleta City Alert is a powerful communication tool and greatly enhances Goleta’s existing emergency preparedness and response capabilities,” Singer said. “We used the Goleta City Alert system to provide information to residents during the Gap Fire and while we had not officially launched the system, we were able to reach out to residents and businesses within a matter of minutes.”
Through the alert system, City Officials are able to use a map on the Goleta City Alert system to communicate with either all of Goleta or specific geographical locations within the City, sending messages only to the residents and businesses within select neighborhoods when needed.
“The program is absolutely voluntary, but we do urge our citizens to participate,” said Roger Aceves, Mayor Pro Tempore for the City of Goleta. “By allowing our citizens to participate with this new technology, we are able to, in mass, send out a message with time-sensitive stuff, such as the Gap Fire. This new program that will allow us to send mass messages in text or recordings so we can alert [residents] about something that is happening in our community.

Aceves said the new system will greatly improve the responsiveness of the City in responding to emergency situations, pending resident involvement.
“This is a step in the right direction. Any time you provide information to the community about an incident, it helps to keep our community together and safe,” Aceves said. “The problem is we have to find the most immediate way to communicate with them. If there power goes out or you are away from home, you can still receive messages from the system on your cell phone. It’s a very valuable tool we can use to help keep our community safe.”
According to Aceves, the alert system is also capable of sending mass messages in various different languages upon request, including English, Spanish and many others.
“Goleta City Alert is just another tool in our toolbox to ensure that residents and businesses in Goleta have the information they need in an emergency,” Singer said. “Certainly, the Gap Fire helped us to realize how critical of a tool this will be for us.
An annual fee of two dollars per phone line will be charged to the City based on the number of lines attached to the alert system. The City expects there to be approximately 13,000 connected lines by next year, costing nearly 25,000 dollars annually.
“In addition to sending safety-related notifications, such as a gas leak or missing person, we plan to use Goleta City Alert to send public interest announcements, including notifications of road closures or power outages, among other things,” said Kirsten Deshler, Public Information Officer of Goleta. “The system is only as good as the information that is entered into it. I strongly encourage residents and businesses to register their contact information into the Goleta City Alert database to make sure they are ready to receive important, timely information at any point throughout their day.”

Goleta City Alert is a program similar to emergency response programs utilized on University campuses across the nation, which are capable of sending mass messages to its students, faculty and staff in the instance of an emergency.
Publicly available primary residential and business phones throughout Goleta will be included into the system automatically. However, residents are allowed to add up to three phone numbers and two email addresses into the system or indicate that they have a TTY/TDD device to receive emergency alerts from the City by visiting the Goleta Website at and selecting on the “SIGN UP NOW – SERVICES BY CONNECT-CTY” link. Residents may also have their information added to the system by calling (805) 961-7508 and leaving a message containing their contact information.

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