The system Palo Alto uses to warn residents of danger, including the threat of floods, has been upgraded to send personal messages, including text, to residents and businesses.
"The devastation in Southern California is a sobering reminder that, should there be an emergency here, we are ready and able to reach large numbers of residents directly with critical and possibly life-saving information," Police Chief Lynne Johnson said.
City officials can now send messages via home phones, work phones, cell phones and even e-mails, said Sheryl Contois, director of technical services for the Police Department.
The Palo Alto Community Alerting and Notification System (Palo Alto CANS) was designed by the communication service Connect-CTY from NTI Group, Inc.
In mid-November, city officials will begin an outreach campaign to residents to get them to sign up for the notification system with their work, cell phone and e-mail accounts. Home telephone numbers are already in the system.
The school district bought notification software from the same company this year, technology supervisor Marie Scigliano said at the last school board meeting.
The district will use the program mainly adminstratively, but it would be invaluable in case of emergency, she said.
The program, called Connect-Ed, can make up to two million calls per hour and will be operational by January, she said.