In the event of a catastrophic emergency, the very first thing required is one of the most fundamental tools and one that could be lost before anything else.

And that is communication. Something so basic that we take for granted much like breathing. But it is one of the first things that goes when cell service goes down after an earthquake, a hurricane, wildfire, even a terrorist attack, among others.

What takes its place? How does an agency charged with its community’s safety or well-being get its message out during an emergency?

The South Pasadena Fire Department is focusing exactly on that challenge, according to the presentation by the top fire official at the city’s Public Safety Commission meeting this past Monday.

“We want to be able to get the message out before an incident and after an incident,” Paul Riddle, So Pas fire chief, told the commission. “We want to be able to tell people to shelter in place or evacuate. The more people we can reach the better.”

Riddle also said an effective tool is Nixle for police and Connect South Pasadena for fire. A person has to sign up, but the process is easy, Riddle said. So far, about 9,800 So Pas residents have signed up for Connect South Pasadena.

“If the incident is long-term, like an earthquake, we want to be able to give people updates,” Riddle said. The city has been undergoing an evaluation of its ability to communicate before, during and after an emergency.
“I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is to retrieve information
during a disaster,” he said. “We want to keep people out of harm’s way and we encourage everyone to sign up.”

Riddle is encouraging all residents to sign up for Connect South Pasadena and Nixle so they can be in line to receive any emergency mass notifications.

The Fire Department already has an at-risk senior list that allows an individual to respond to seniors in person in the first hours after an incident. Moreover, fire officials also have a working relationship with HAM radio operators because they are not reliant on cell towers and possibly the only sure to get a message out during a power outage.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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