Napa County tests new alert system, didn't work right away as planned

Tuesday, October 9, 2018
Napa Co. tests new alert system, doesn't go as planned
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The Napa County Supervisors meeting was supposed to be interrupted with an emergency alert.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Napa County supervisors meeting was supposed to be interrupted at 9:30 Tuesday morning with an emergency alert.

But the alert didn't come.

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Kerry Whitney, the Director of Emergency Services, was explaining the new system and stalling as 9:30 came and went.

"We have 170,000 NIXLE subscribers now but if there are 50,000 in the community who are tourists and we hit 60 percent of those who would not have gotten a message with just the NIXLE message, I look at that as a huge improvement...if we ever get the message," said Whitney as he looked at the clock.

The alert system is called the Integrated Alert and Warning System or IPAWS. It will send a text message to anyone with a cellphone who is in the county, including visitors. The plan is to only use it for an extreme emergency.

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The test window was from 9:30 to 10 a.m. When it didn't arrive, officials called FEMA and found out they had not set up the portal correctly. FEMA walked them through it and the alert came through at 9:55. It is now considered up and running.

Sonoma County also successfully tested the system and now also has it ready to go. The system does have its limitations -- there are rural areas that don't have cell coverage, but this is considered an improvement.

"IPAWS is not intended to replace NIXLE but it adds another tool to our toolbox to alert those who aren't subscribers to NIXLE in extreme emergencies," said Whitney.