Automatic Emergency Enrollment Bill Heads to Govenor
Source: Office of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson
Following the devastating fires last year, in which many residents were not signed up for their county emergency alerts, a bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to create an opt-out emergency alert system passed the State Senate today and now heads to the Governor.
Senate Bill 821 will give counties the option of automatically enrolling every resident in a targeted emergency notification program, while preserving residents’ ability to opt-out of alerts. Many of California’s public warning systems have the ability to deliver notifications to residents based on the location of their homes, but require residents to sign up before they receive these critical cell phone and email alerts.
In contrast, a federal Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system does not require residents to sign up, but it lacks the ability to precisely target specific neighborhoods, potentially undermining efficient evacuation efforts.
When the Thomas Fire broke out, fewer than 30 percent of residents had signed up to receive county cell phone and email alerts. In the Northern California wildfires, which caused the deaths of 44 people, notification of residents has also been scrutinized as inadequate.
“Every second counts when a disaster strikes,” said Senator Jackson. “SB 821 could save lives by ensuring all Californians receive timely, accurate and efficient emergency alerts. This bill will provide an important measure of safety for all Californians.”
Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign SB 821. If signed, the bill would go into effect on January 1, 2019.
Jackson is chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management. She represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.