The emergency alert system is used to warn the public of impending emergencies due to a severe storm or a tornado sighting in the area.
The criteria for sending alerts for severe weather remains the same: sustained winds (versus gusts) of at least 58 mph, hail at least 1 inch in diameter (the size of a quarter), and/or a tornado warning. Information about severe weather comes from the National Weather Service or a trained weather spotter in the field. The criteria were established by agreement of the Tom Green County judge and San Angelo’s mayor and city manager, per NOAA recommendations.
The primary use is for severe weather but the system can also alert citizens about an active shooter, wildfire or any other imminent danger. The warnings can also alert the public of instances that affect large numbers of citizens, such as a major water main break.
The decision to issue an alert remains with the SAFD’s on-duty battalion chief, the police or fire chief, the assistant fire chief for operations, the emergency management coordinator, or the city manager.
Types of Alerts
- AlertSense: Alerts will be sent out over landlines using reverse 9-1-1. The caller ID will be from San Angelo and be from phone number 325-486-3799. Citizens can also subscribe to AlertSense. Whatever number you put down will receive alerts either by voice to your landline or text to your cell phone. Sign up for AlertSense to have alerts sent to your landlines or cells phones by visiting this link. If you have multiple phones at a residence or business and would like for certain phone numbers to be removed from the call list, please email email@example.com with a list of phone numbers that you would like to be removed.
- Examples of notifications in the AlertSense App:
- Social Media: Alerts will be posted to the City of San Angelo Facebook and Twitter pages. Please make sure you are following these pages.
- Broadcast: Alerts will be broadcast on radio stations, television channels and weather radios.
- Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS alerts): Are similar to Amber alerts which are received on cell phones. When activated by the SAFD, alerts will be sent to every cell phone within the area designated – whether a neighborhood or the entire county. No registration is needed to receive the warnings. The IPAWS alerts are tested in a lab through the federal system.
Example of an IPAWS alert:
Information about the old inactive siren system
Why is this system better than the emergency sirens that we’re all used to? Well, to start, it’s outdated. Most of the sirens were installed during the Cold War to alert locals of air raids. The intent was for anyone who was outside to seek cover. That poses the problem of anyone inside not being able to hear the sirens.
Plus, if there’s strong winds, then even those who are outside might not be able to hear them. Then there’s the whole other issue of those who live in places such as Wall, Veribest, Carlsbad and Water Valley – there are not any sirens there. They are also not specific. Most people associate the sirens with tornadoes, but there’s no way to tell where that tornado is. The digital alerts provide citizens with the detailed information they need.
By the way, those sirens are powered by electricity, meaning they are useless during power outages. It’s also worth noting that the cost of necessary – and rare – replacement parts for the sirens far succeeds the yearly cost of the digital alert system. We’re talking $500,000 to $750,000 versus $8,000. That means cost savings for taxpayers.
Most large municipalities have made the switch from sirens to a digital alert system. By switching to the digital alert system, the City will be spending less money and reaching far more citizens more effectively in the event of an emergency.