June 24, 2024


Unlimited Technology

Cellphones and laptops pack plenty of emergency information

Ramona is headed toward the end of a long, hot summer and into fall, which still brings an elevated fire risk to our drought-stricken area. And that’s while residents are still dealing with the usual traffic accidents, power outages and more.

Your cellphone and laptop can actually be a big help in finding out where trouble spots are in town. Only official sites and apps are listed; the idea is to only pass on factual information, and avoid well-meaning sites that may not have all the facts or may encourage speculation and guesses.

Pulsepoint is a free, easy-to-navigate phone app. The app lists any emergencies, such as medical or electrical, fires, rescue efforts and more. The items are displayed in real time, with icons representing the incident, a general location and map, emergency vehicles that have responded, and more. There is also an option to listen to official dispatchers.

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) Traffic Incident Information Page page can be found at cad.chp.ca.gov; Ramona is located under the “Border” Communications Center. The site lists the real time, type and location of their dispatches. By clicking on “Details,” viewers can learn more information about a specific incident, such as units assigned and cleared, maps and more. It helps to know Ramona streets, as incidents are shown under the El Cajon “Area.”

Sig Alerts began in the 1940s, and are named after Loyd Sigmon, a popular Los Angeles radio reporter who would inform the public of major accidents through his broadcasts. Issued in real time, Sig Alerts can be found on the television traffic reports, on local radio stations, on the electronic billboards above highways, on the website and on mobile phones.

Sig Alerts are issued by CHP when an unplanned event causes at least one lane of traffic to be closed for 30 minutes or more; Caltrans also issues Sig Alerts for traffic incidents tying up two or more freeway lanes for two or more hours.

Sig Alerts can be found online or for mobile phones at SigAlert.com (search for San Diego). The site shows the current status of traffic on major roadways. By clicking on camera icons, specific details about each incident can be found, and traffic cameras are available. By signing up for an account on your mobile phone, you will be notified of Sig Alerts on your saved routes, and can even view alternative routes.

Similarly, by signing up for AlertSanDiego on a cell phone, you will be placed on the Reverse 911 call list. The system is used by emergency response to notify homes and businesses of events and actions such as evacuations, shelter in place, gas leaks or missing persons. According to the ReadySanDiego.org website, AlertSanDiego is for registering cell phones, VoIP phones and email addresses only. Listed and unlisted landline phone numbers are already included in the database and do not need to be registered.

Ready San Diego also has the SD Emergency App, which informs with emergency updates, maps, shelter locations and a host of disaster preparedness information. The app can be found on the App Store or Google play.

Power shutoffs can be quite disruptive, especially if you have no idea how long they will last. The Alerts by San Diego Gas and Electric (SDGE) mobile app gives users potential and active events, status updates and estimated restoration times. Visit sdge.com to sign up. You do not have to have an account with SDGE or log in to access the information.

It can be terribly difficult to understand what helicopters are saying when you hear an announcement from a circling chopper. The loudspeakers are used when the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is searching for a missing person or suspect, and during critical incidents such as SWAT standoffs, disasters, crowd management or shelter in place notifications.

By texting “Hello” to 858-866-4356, the ASTREA (helicopter) messages will be sent to your phone. The text will have to be sent every time you want to know the chopper messages.

Earthquakes remain on the list of emergencies to take note of, however, most residents may already be receiving any earthquake alerts. As long as the notifications in your smartphones are not turned off, users automatically receive earthquake alerts when a greater than magnitude 5.0 will be felt. For more information, visit ShakeAlert.org.

A quick way to find out current highway conditions is through the Caltrans Road Information site at roads.dot.ca.gov; simply enter the highway number you’re interested in and answers appear immediately. Current highway conditions can also be found by calling 1-800-427-7623.

Twitter can be a great source of news and entertainment, but many local emergency services also use the social medium to get facts and photos out to their followers. A couple of useful official Twitter accounts include Cal Fire/San Diego County Fire at @CALFIRESANDIEGO and SD County Fire Scanner (@SDCountyFires), which tweets fires and prescribed burns. There are many more official sources on Twitter; simply search and follow the accounts you’re interested in.

Although of course, 911 should be used to report a fire, individuals just seeking information during an actual fire are advised to call 211, rather than their local fire department non-emergency number. 211SanDiego.org offers disaster alerts and resources, as well as updated information about health and social services.

The 24-hour non-emergency information line can answer questions ranging from road closures, evacuation routes, shelters and more. One of the biggest roles of 211 is to help with rumor control and taking public feedback on emerging needs. The website is filled with information and resources.

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