Earthquake alert over SMS

I just received two SMS alerts from the local Office of Emergency Services in San Mateo County, California:

Part 1/2: There was a 5.6 magnitude Earthquake at 8:05pm San Mateo County residents are advised to report any damage to their local
Part 2/2: police department and to be prepared for possible aftershocks. Bill O'Callahan Office of Emergency Services
I'm really impressed. Do other counties in SF Bay Area do the same? Did residents in San Diego get these emergency notifications during the fire last week? I know universities across the country are putting similar broadcast systems in place after the tragic event at Virginia Tech but I didn't realize local governments are also doing it. I just switched to the at&t orange network so perhaps this is old news to some. Does anyone have detail on how the system works?

There's just one problem: I received the alerts at 8:57pm, almost an hour after the earthquake. Not sure if the delay was due to SMSC being overloaded at the time, but in event of a catastrophe, getting timely information could be life-or-death so I hope in the future the OES alerts will reach my phone within minutes.

And perhaps one day the alert will come in advance of the earthquake. :-)

[UPDATE] A reader asked how I signed up for these OES alerts. I didn't AFAIK. Another observation: out of three GSM phones in my household, the two quad-band (including my iPhone) received SMS while the tri-band did not. They're on the same family plan.

Comments:

Reader Vicki wrote to say that she spoke to the OES in Alameda County and they told her while they don't have ability to send SMS there's a service at http://edis.oes.ca.gov/ that anyone could sign up to get emergency notifications via email. Filters could be created for more localized alerts.

Livermore has a notification system in place for emergency personnel only like firemen, policemen etc. Their system could call residents of Livermore via land lines to provide them during emergencies with info such as shelters. Thanks Vicki!

Posted by Robert Chien on November 01, 2007 at 10:00 AM PDT #

San Mateo County offers a service, called SMC Alert, which is a community notification system. You may find the information at: smcaleart.info

Posted by YC on December 03, 2007 at 02:55 PM PST #

Robert, yes, there was a system in place of evauations and fire progress through SMS in San Diego County in the fires last fall. I can't recall now who set this up (county, city, or a local TV station), but it was very informative and valuable.

Posted by Andy on February 08, 2008 at 04:03 PM PST #

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