(Sept. 20, 2006) -- On Sept. 19, LB officials unveiled "Reverse 9-1-1," an Emergency Notification System that can call you to deliver emergency information. The system can already reach every landline (hard wired) telephone in the city...and it can call your cellular (wireless) phone, TTY/TTD amd internet phones IF you register them with the city (important details below).
"The City of Long Beach is implementing this service to be as proactive as possible during an emergency,” Mayor Bob Foster said. "We strongly urge everybody to take note of this service, and to register telephones that are not traditional landlines."
The system, whose $85,000 cost is being funded by a Homeland Security allocation (federal taxpayer paid), lets an operator send emergency messages to telephones in a specifically affected area (areas can be custom drawn on a digital map) or citywide.
In an emergency -- which could range from a police suspect on the loose to a hazmat situation or a terrorist attack -- an operator maps the affected area, records a message describing the situation and explaining what to do...and directs the system to call all listed and unlisted telephone numbers in the affected area, delivering the recorded message.
The system knows how to call all LB Verizon hardwired phones right now...and city officials STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you register your wireless phones (cellphones) TTD/TTD and inetrnet (VOIP) phones to receive messages from the system. You can do this using a snazzy online registration system:
Click Cell Phone Sign-Up For Reverse 911. Complete the online form, click and send, and the system will be enabled to call your cell phone.
"The ability of this system to make phone calls in a targeted area is especially useful because we anticipate that in most cases only a portion of the City would need to be contacted," said Curtis Tani, Director of Technology Services in a written release. "We can pinpoint a specific neighborhood in the City and alert the residents about a public safety incident that might affect them."
With targeted calling, the system can make approximately 5,700 calls per hour. For a major incident -- when the City would need to place a large number of calls in a short time period -- the City can place up to approximately 360,000 phone calls per hour.
The system can call phones outside of LB service...BUT you have to enter a valid address in the City of Long Beach to be eligible for the service. (The system will contact you annually by email to confirm that your phone info is still valid; if not confirmed, it will be deleted.
If the system gets a busy signal or call waiting, it redials the number. If an answering machine picks up, the system leaves the message on the machine.
If the phone linea are down, well...it's a best-effort system. "It's a great tool, but not a panacea," said LBPD Police Chief Anthony Batts. In phone outages prevent Reverse 911 from working, police and city officials plan to use more traditional means: police car P.A. systems, City Hall's cable channel 8, City Hall's website (www.longbeach.gov), LB's KKJZ FM 88.1 and L.A. market radio and TV outlets.
"This system is an extension of the City’s 9-1-1 emergency system, and it will enhance the City’s ability to communicate with residents during a public safety incident," Police Chief Anthony Batts said, adding "it's a great tool, but it's not a panacea.
"This is one more tool in the City’s toolkit for communicating with residents during emergencies," said Fire Chief David Ellis, adding "There's no substitute for preparedness. We all know that it’s a matter of when, not if, a significant disaster will strike, and it’s vitally important for everybody to prepare to survive for five days on their own."
The City is initially prepared to deliver messages in English and Spanish first with other languages possible.
City Hall also offers the following FAQ:
Q: When will the Reverse 9-1-1 Emergency Notification System be used?
A: Reverse 9-1-1 will be used to provide emergency information to residents and businesses. Examples of situations in which the system might be activated include hazardous materials releases, missing persons, flood warnings or natural disasters such as earthquakes or tsunamis. The notifications can be Citywide or targeted to a specific neighborhood.
Q. How does the Reverse 9-1-1 Emergency Notification System work?
A. In most situations, only a portion of the City would need to be contacted. The City would use its internal telephone system to make calls to residents and businesses in the affected location. In this situation, the system will make approximately 5,700 calls per hour. There is no cost for placing the calls. For a major incident in which the City would need to place a large number of calls in a short time period, the City can make up to approximately 360,000 calls per hour. In this case, the cost would be $.20 per call.
Q. Who should register a telephone?
A. The system has all listed and unlisted landline telephone numbers in the City. There is no need to register your landline phone number. Anyone with a cellular telephone, Internet VOIP phone service or TTY/TDD service is strongly urged to register those phone numbers for Reverse 9-1-1 notification.
Q. How can I register my telephone?
A. Simple instructions and the registration form are available online at www.longbeach.gov
Q. What if I have SBC landline telephone service?
A. A small number of Long Beach residents are served by SBC. Their landline telephones will be automatically registered.
Q. What if my answering machine picks up the notification?
A. The emergency information will be left on your answering machine.
Q. How can I get more information about the incident?
A. If there is a source for additional information relating to the incident, that source will be included in the phone message.
Q. Will I be notified when the incident is over?
A. In some situations a follow-up call may be made, if warranted.
Q. What if I have call-waiting?
A. A second call will be placed after a five-minute interval.
Q. What if I don’t have call-waiting?
A. A second call will be placed after a five-minute interval.
Q. What if I have Caller-ID block?
A. The Reverse 9-1-1 system will display a caller-ID to avoid being blocked.
Q. Can Reverse 9-1-1 be used with a pager or a device with text-messaging capabilities?
A. No, only a voice call and a TTY message (a typed message for the hearing impaired) are supported at this time.
Q. Will there be a “pause” before the message, similar to a recorded telemarketing message?
A. No. Once you answer you phone with “hello” or any other spoken sound, the system will deliver the message.
Q. What is the cost of the system?
A. The acquisition cost was $85,000. Federal Homeland Security grant funding was used to pay for the system.
Q. Is there a cost for residents when the system is used?
A. There is no cost to residents for this service, unless you register a cell phone and the cell service provider charges a fee for incoming calls.
Q. What if a young child answers the telephone?
A. Regardless of who answers the phone, the message will be delivered.
Q. Is there a phone number I can call for more information?
A. A determination will be made on a case-by-case basis if a number will be provided. A phone number may be provided in the Reverse 9-1-1 message, depending on the nature of the situation.