On the night of October 8, 2017, first responders and emergency managers responded to at least 12 separate fires that were spreading with unprecedented speed fueled by gusty winds. First responders and emergency managers moved quickly to select the best tools available to save as many lives as possible. Within 4 hours, a fire which started in Napa had flown into Santa Rosa. That fire alone – the Tubbs Fire – destroyed over 5,500 structures.
This was an unpredictable, quickly developing, and fast moving catastrophe. The Tubbs fire is the most destructive wildfire in California history – eclipsing the second most destructive fire with almost double the structures lost. In the initial response to this tragedy, notifications were performed by law enforcement and fire first responders. This consisted of notifications sent over SoCo Alert and Nixle, sirens, announcements on loudspeakers, and door to door notifications.
We are currently in the process of reviewing the events that took place in the early hours of the emergency, and Cal OES (Governor's Office of Emergency Services) has agreed to the County’s request to conduct an independent review of Sonoma County’s notification response. We will not stop adding to our suite of tools to alert people until we have the capacity to reach our residents exactly when and where they need to be alerted.
The Federal Communications Commission regulates how cell carriers distribute WEAs and have finalized rules which will improve the geo-targeting capabilities of the system. Additional efforts at the State of California are underway to standardize the use of WEAs. We are grateful to our partners at the State and Federal levels for working to enhance our toolbox for emergency alerts.