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Emergency manager: Sign up now for emergency alerts

Emergency manager urges citizen alert use

This past weekend’s lightning-sparked fires were a reminder that fire season is under way and also a good reminder to sign up for Wasco County’s citizen alert notifications.

Land lines automatically receive the emergency notices, but they can also be delivered to residents via cell phone and email. But the service isn’t automatic for those delivery systems.

“Only about 50 percent of households have land lines anymore,” said Kristy Beachamp, emergency manager for the Wasco County Sheriff’s office. And most of those are unpublished.

Other forms of delivery require the recipient to sign up through the online “Citizen Alert Sign Up” link on the Wasco County home page, www.co.wasco.or.us.

The alerts were a vital link for residents in the evacuation zones of the Government Flats Fire Complex that burned south of The Dalles in August 2013. They helped notify people when evacuation orders were in effect, when shelters were available and when meetings were scheduled.

The notifications can alert people about other crisis situations, too, Beachamp noted: a chemical spill, or a dangerous person on the loose for example. In one such earlier incident, residents were warned to stay inside, lock their doors and call 911 right away if the individual was spotted.

When residents sign up, they are automatically selected to receive emergency alerts. In addition, they can choose to receive law enforcement alerts, Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue alerts, utility advisories, road and street closures and public health advisories. Some examples of non-emergency notifications that have been made include Project ELFF, the holiday food collection program, and a planned power outage of Pacific Power customers.

At present, 4,607 land lines are signed up for the service from an estimated 9,000 households. Another 614 people have opted in for cell phones or email.

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