By Woody Henderson
For my final contribution on emergency preparedness, I offer a quick chat on staying informed.
Of course, we will talk about text alerts and social media resources, but there is a source of information that works even when the others aren’t available — our local emergency radio station WNKI-AM 1610.
When our electricity is shut off in response to emergency conditions, our access to information is reduced. Some residents do not have cell phones and some cell providers do not have generators to keep their signals flowing. For them, a battery-powered AM radio is especially valuable.
I had a great conversation with Mile High Radio Club’s (MHRC) Bill Tell. Relevant to our subject, MHRC also installs, repairs, and operates all of the gear necessary to get our emergency messages onto the airwaves.
It works like this … MHRC monitors sources for local emergencies, such as information on local road conditions, weather and other emergencies. The information is broadcast on WNKI-AM 1610 as a repeating audio message. Check it out.
In a prior article, we talked about how larger emergencies get their own unified command. WNKI-AM 1610 also broadcasts emergency instructions from the assigned designated public information officer (PIO).
It’s a good idea to have WNKI-AM 1610 pre-programmed on radios in your home and vehicles.
MHRC is always working to improve. Soon, we will be able to monitor WNKI-AM 1610 transmissions on the internet. For more information on MHRC (and sister MRN) visit N6MRN.org.
One can monitor the actual radio traffic of fire agencies and law enforcement with a “scanner.” There are scanner apps, websites and stand-alone radio receivers.
If your internet access is not interrupted, there are many sources of information on local incidents.
• Rivcoready.org/AlertRivCo provides updates from emergency responders. Register for Swift 911 on the website to receive AlertRivCo updates.
• Idyllwildemergency.com is managed by Mountain Disaster Preparedness (MDP) and lists local incidents.
• Idyllwildtowncrier.com has great local information and even same-day event articles.
• Fire.ca.gov/incidents provides a map showing fires that Cal Fire is tracking. Click on the little flame for incident information.
• Inciweb.nwcg.gov does the same nationally and shows other incidents.
Text alerts can be fun. Remember, if you are getting too many, you can reply with the word “stop.”
For updates from Mountain Disaster Preparedness, just text “iealerts” to 484848.
Nixle alerts can be received by text. Text your zip code to 888777.
Social media is possibly the best way to remain updated on incidents and events.
Twitter is now renowned for instant onsite updates for local and global incidents. For the uninitiated, it works like this … login to (or create) a Twitter account. Think of a subject, event or incident and type a “#” (hashtag) followed by the word or words with no spaces. For our last big incident, #cranstonfire produced a constant top-down flow of information from agencies and eye witnesses. You can search that hashtag now and see the play-by-play as many of us did live.
And then there’s always Facebook. The cool kids have mostly abandoned the platform, as it has allegedly been overrun with “old people complaining,” but it still has value for agency updates and community pages. For local information, head to the Idyllwild Community page. There are a few other Idyllwild pages, but this seems to be the main one.
As I was wrapping up this contribution, I got a text alert from MDP letting me know about a housefire on Linger Lane. I jumped into my other sources listed above. A house fire won’t show up on the bigger incident pages. As far as raw data is concerned, the Idyllwild Community page on the Facebook came out on top. Aaron H, visiting the transfer station, posted 17 minutes prior to the text alert as his partner was calling 911.
As a result, our community jumped to action. At the one-hour mark, there were a total of 48 updates, images and videos. The address had been identified by neighbors. Those with scanners reported the official incident information. It was confirmed that there were no pets on the premises. There was a comment from Tahquitz Peak, a report that the home was fully engulfed, later a report that it was nearly contained and confined to one structure. Commenters had identified and contacted the owner.As the incident came to resolution, the comments trickled off …