Palo Alto's Community Emergency Alerting and Notification System (CANS), which notifies residents and businesses during emergencies, will reach more -- and the right -- people when it transfers to Santa Clara County on Aug. 11, according to Charles Cullen, city technical services director.
The CANS software-based program, which has allowed city staff to alert the public during emergencies and send notifications of public works or utilities projects and other civic events, will transfer to the countywide ALERTSCC system as part of the city's cost-saving measures. Santa Clara County contracted with Blackboard Connect in 2009 to offer the same CANS system to all municipalities in the county.
ALERTSCC will save the city an estimated $125,000 over the next two years, Cullen said.
Instead of being a casualty to fiscal austerity, the new system will add to the city's emergency preparedness, which the City Council has identified as a major policy goal for 2010.
The county's ALERTSCC can fill the gap in the city's CANS system by calling unlisted numbers, Cullen said. The county has purchased 911 data and can call every land-line phone in the city, he said.
The county system will also expand the geography of areas to be notified during a disaster, according to Ken Foot, senior emergency planning coordinator for Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services.
Emergency-notification staff will draw a circle on a map and everyone living within the circle will be called in a disaster. Previously, if the disaster affected a corner of Palo Alto and the emergency was located in Mountain View, Palo Alto residents wouldn't necessarily be notified, he said.
"The other big thing: All cities will be trained on the same system," Foot said. In a real emergency, when one city might not be able to function, that could make a huge difference, he said.
"We had an instance when a city wanted to send a message but they weren't yet trained. We have a much larger base of people ready to step in if someone can't be reached," he said.
Residents and businesses don't have to worry about receiving phone calls about incidents in Gilroy, he said. Each city has an incident commander who contacts dispatchers at the Palo Alto Police Department who send out the message.
The city will retain local control to put on messages to the population in Palo Alto, Cullen added.
Palo Alto residents and businesses shouldn't notice any difference when the county system becomes operational, Cullen said. City data, such as contact phone numbers, will be transferred on Aug. 11, but the two systems will run parallel until about Sept. 1 to make sure there are no glitches, he said.
Users will still visit the city's website to register.
"The city will retain local control to put on messages to the population in Palo Alto," Cullen said.
Foot said he has a message he wants to get out to the public:
"We highly recommend people register their e-mail addresses and cell phones," he said.