Citing an example of a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood needing to be evacuated because of a wildland fire, Lorenzo Gigliotti said an emergency phone system will make the dissemination of information easier.
Gigliotti, chief of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, embraced the use of the Teleminder phone system which can make thousands of calls to residents in a short time.
The system has been used by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services for a few years. Gigliotti said he was allowed to piggyback on the department’s system.
In addition, the city can use the Lake Tahoe Unified School district’s phone system called Connect ED, Gigliotti said.
“Breaking down bureaucratic barriers of “turf and ego” results in good things for the people we serve,” said South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens.
Teleminder merged with the American Emergency Network. The new wave of mass notifications is to go through the Internet to select a group of recipients and craft a message, said Ed Rutherford, president and chief operations officer for American Emergency Notification.
Rutherford said he’s been in talks with El Dorado County officials to embrace the Web-based system, which would boost efficiency and the number of calls that can be made. The Teleminder system, Rutherford said, can reach about 3,000 per hour.
The technology is becoming more common as dozens of California agencies are embracing it, Rutherford said.
“Not having an automated dialing system is like not having a cell phone,” he said. “That’s how common the technology is. That’s how useful it is in common life and you still have jurisdictions that don’t use them.”
Prior to the gulf coast hurricane season, Rutherford said he contacts states with agencies that use the system within the weather-whipped region asking if they need updates or training.
Lake Tahoe Unified School District uses its system to notifying parents and students on snow days or school events. Douglas County Sheriff’s Department has a Reverse 911 system that has only been used once during an evacuation drill at Glenbrook.
Douglas County sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said the system would have been useful in providing information to residents during the Gondola fire in summer 2002. The fire, started by a discarded cigarette, charred 670 acres at Stateline and moved toward homes on Kingsbury Grade. No structures were burned but people were evacuated.
“The telephone will always ring unless the line is cut,” he said. “If nobody is home you have nothing to worry about. If somebody is home you’re going to reach them.”