Susan Rogers: Clearing up CodeRED confusion in Nevada County |

Susan Rogers: Clearing up CodeRED confusion in Nevada County

Want to get a notice if there’s an emergency in your neighborhood? Then sign up all your phone numbers and your address with CodeRED, the County’s alert system for sending messages such as wildfire evacuation notices and missing child alerts.

The operative words in the previous sentence are, “all your phone numbers.” A recent improvement to the system has caused some misunderstanding and confusion about how CodeRED works. I’m here to help clear that up. Just know that the easiest path to guaranteeing that you will get that emergency message is to simply register all your phone numbers. Better safe than sorry.

Here’s how CodeRED works:

CodeRED notifies you of nearby emergencies (not several miles away, just nearby). It’s important to understand the “nearby” part of it, because if a wildfire is 10 miles away and the wind is blowing it in your direction, the CodeRED system might not be implemented for your area until the fire gets closer to you. So while this system is an important part of the County’s process for notifying residents of emergencies, it’s not a panacea. When it’s fire season, you still need to pay attention to local news, smell the air and look at the sky.

When it’s fire season, you still need to pay attention to local news, smell the air and look at the sky.

The only phones that are automatically registered with CodeRED are AT&T landlines. If you have any other kind of phone: cell phone, or “landline” phone from your cable company (often called VOIP, from companies such as Vonage or Comcast/Xfinity), those phone numbers must be registered with CodeRED to guarantee that you will receive a notification when there’s an emergency near your house.

Notice that I used the word “guarantee.” There is an exception to the rule that your phone number must be registered to get a notice of a nearby emergency. It’s this exception that has caused some confusion and led some people to think they don’t need to register their numbers. I’m going to tell you what that exception is, but take my word for it: if you will just register all your phone numbers with CodeRED, you won’t have to try to understand this or remember it.

Here’s the exception: using something called “geo-targeting,” Nevada County CodeRED emergency alerts will be automatically sent to all cell phones that are within the vicinity of an evacuation or emergency area. More specifically, this means “only cell phones within the reach of the cell tower closest to the emergency.”

So, let’s say you live in Alta Sierra but work in Nevada City. On Monday morning, a wildfire breaks out a mile from your house. If you did not register your cell phone number with CodeRED, you will not, while at work, automatically get an emergency notice on your cell phone, because you are out of range of the cell tower in Alta Sierra. Your weekend guests from out of town, who are sleeping in Monday before heading home, will get a message on their cell phones (despite not being registered) because they are within cell tower range. But again, you will not.

Bottom line: If you are away from home when an emergency near your home occurs, you will not receive an emergency alert message unless your cell phone and home address are registered to receive Nevada County’s CodeRED emergency alerts.

Just do it. Sign up for CodeRED on the County’s website, as follows:

Go to

Underneath the green landscape photo, see the CodeRED link with the photos of emergency vehicles and the caption “Emergency Alerts.” Click on that.

See the first paragraph of the next page, “Sign up for CodeRED Alerts.” Click on the words “Sign up” in that section.

You will be transferred to the website of the company that manages the CodeRED system for the County. Follow the instructions. It will ask if you want to create a “managed account,” meaning you have to choose a Username and Password. I did that to make it easier to add or change phone numbers in the future, but it’s optional. Don’t let that page stop you from signing up — if you don’t want to set up an account, just say “No” and click “Continue” to register your phone numbers and address.

CodeRED is not a guarantee you will get a notice in time if strong winds are blowing a fire in your direction. It’s just one more tool in the County’s efforts to provide emergency alerts in a timely manner. Help yourself and help our firefighters by signing up for CodeRED today.

Susan Rogers is vice chair of the Coalition of Firewise Communities and a member of The Union’s Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Coalition, the Editorial Board or its members. She can be reached at

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