GOLETA, Calif. - Not enough residents in Santa Barbara County are registered to receive emergency notifications.
The county's Office of Emergency Management uses a system called "Aware and Prepare" to send alerts to people working or living in areas before, during and after emergencies. In many cases, receiving up-to-date information about incidents and evacuations can save lives. However, not enough people are registered for the free system.
“If the fire department and the sheriff’s department that there needs to be an evacuation, then they notify us immediately and then we attempt to send the alert out as soon as possible," said Brian Uhl, Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management.
There are about 400,000 residents in Santa Barbara County, but roughly 30,000 people have signed up for Aware and Prepare and a more private system called Nixle. Emergency managers want more people to sign up. Many people in Northern California who are facing multiple wildfires did not register for the notification system before the blazes.
In Western Goleta's Rancho Embarcadero neighborhood, many residents received notifications on their cell phones and email accounts in July when fire officials evacuated the neighborhood due to the Whittier Fire.
“I was actually in the bank, very local. I was doing several transactions and I said oh, I’ve just been evacuated," said Lili Walker, evacuated in July.
Walker has a dog and livestock animals on property. She's thankful for the emergency system because she needs more time to evacuate.
“It was critical to my feeling of security and safety. Critical for me to be able to plan how I evacuated and give the time needed to make a safe and reasonable evacuation," said Walker.
Emergency managers hope more people will follow Lili Walker in signing up for Aware and Prepare.
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