WASHINGTON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Sadly, Utah is only halfway through wildfire season. Last week Washington County experienced three wildfires causing evacuations.
When you think of emergency alerts, you might think of a distinctive, less-than-pleasant sound coming from your disabled cell phone.
These alerts are part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, IPAWS. IPAWS was created by the federal government following Hurricane Katrina in efforts to warn residents of important information.
The IPAWS system allows for SMS-text message of up to 90-characters to go through cell towers to all cell phones within a certain geographical radius.
If you live in Washington County chances are you’ve received an IPAWS message over recent days as wildfires raged across the county. The system also has a secondary emergency notification system called Reverse 911.
With this year’s severe fire conditions, the Washington County Emergency Services team said they feel it imperative residents have access to critical emergency information.
County officials said IPAWS has some limitations. While all cell phones are programmed to receive IPAWS messages within their geographical boundaries, ensuring follow-up information makes its way to affected individuals who were evacuated outside of the designated alert area can be difficult. The Reverse 911 emergency notification system bridges that gap getting critical information to more residents, Washington County officials said.
Reverse 911 has access to landline phone numbers, but not a cell phone or email information unless individual users have registered for the system. “It is critical for people to have access to both options. During the recent fire evacuations, we had a lot of evacuated people asking why they never received any follow-up information,” said Jason Bradley, Emergency Operations Manager for Washington County. “The answer is, if you haven’t registered for Reverse 911, you won’t.”
To register for Reverse 911, residents should go to 911register.com. If residents need additional assistance, they can contact the Emergency Operations Center located inside the main Washington County Administration Building at 197 E. Tabernacle Street at (435) 634-5734.