Shirl Mendonca: Are you ready for wildfire? Are you sure? | TheUnion.com

Shirl Mendonca: Are you ready for wildfire? Are you sure?

Shirl Mendonca
Lake Wildwood

The Union photo/John Hart

On Sunday, May 27, in addition to Wildland Urban Interface practice "incidents" in Lake Wildwood, there was also a CodeRED test that gave residents a chance to do a practice evacuation.

While the practice incidents went well, the CodeRED test raised many questions which are still unanswered as we move into fire season.

When several friends did not get their CodeRED alerts, I did an informal email survey of 75 Lake Wildwood residents to see if they had enrolled in CodeRED, what devices they had enrolled, and what devices received notices. Of the 54 replies, 21, or 39 percent, had problems.

Thinking they were enrolled, most received no notifications at all or did not receive notifications on all devices enrolled. For example, I had my cell enrolled and enrollment verified last December. It was with me out in the yard but since I did not get a cell alert call, I missed the evacuation.

A few people also mentioned that they did get CodeRED calls for the Lobo Fire but did not get them for the recent test … a problem still to be solved.

While this is a very small sample, we clearly have some issues to sort out. What we don't know is if the problems are with CodeRED, with enrollment, or both. One thing I did learn is that this "test" was issued as a General Alert and not an Emergency Alert so some may have opted out of the General Alerts when they enrolled. As we move into fire season, here are a few pointers for enrolling and for verifying what you currently have in the system.

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Initial enrollment: To enroll, go to http://www.mynevadacounty.com and put "Emergency Alerts" in the search bar. Scroll down and click on "CodeRED Emergency Alerts" or hit the CodeRED "sign up" link if you see one. You are on the right screen if it asks "Would you like to create a managed account?"

Follow the prompts and fill in every space. You have the option to enroll a landline, Voice over Internet (VOIP) lines, cell phones, and/or email addresses. You will need to list your cell carrier and you will have the option to get both a cell call and a cell text message but each of these alerts will come from different area codes; it has been suggested that folks might mistake these numbers for telemarketing calls and delete them before getting the alert. Be sure to ask for enrollment confirmations for each device. If you don't receive the confirmation, there may be something wrong with your input.

Verifying what is in the system: We can't access the CodeRED data base so the only way I can find to verify what is enrolled is to reenter all of your phone data again to see if you get an "already enrolled" message. Start with the same screen, "Would you like to create a managed account?" If you know your User ID, check the "YES" box and reenter all of your enrolled devices on the next data screen. If you don't know your User ID, check the "NO" box to "review and submit information" and reenter all of your devices on the next data screen. For both the YES and the NO option, select "Verify Information" at the end of the data entry screen. A message should say that you are already enrolled and what phone numbers are enrolled (for me, this step does not show my enrolled email address and I still don't know how to verify that).

Landlines: There is a difference between an ATT hardwired landline and a Voice Over Internet Phone (VOIP) like Comcast Xfinity, ATT U-verse, and most phones that are part of a bundled service contract. While all ATT hardwired landlines are automatically enrolled in the CodeRED system the VOIP lines need to be manually enrolled. If there is a power outage, hardwired landlines are not affected but you will not be able to receive alerts on a VOIP.

Cell phones: For enrolled iPhones, you will need to go into your phone settings, then to notifications, and turn on the emergency notification buttons (it is probably similar for Androids). You do not need to download a special app.

FEMA is testing a nationwide Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system involving more than 100 cell carriers. WEAs will be broadcast from area cell towers to every WEA-capable mobile phone within range, regardless of your own cell phone carrier. Nothing will be required on our end. This is currently delayed due to infrastructure issues but will hopefully be up and running sometime this year.

Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood or Penn Valley? Contact Shirl Mendonca at shirlmendonca@gv.net.

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