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Safety First

Safety First
by Gary Woods

During a disaster one of the few things that seem to work most often is your cell phone. We were in Los Angeles during the Northridge Quake and we had no power, no phone, nothin' but the cell was working. Today a lot of people are switching over to using the Internet as their primary phone service. Companies like Vonage and Cox are all too happy to hook up your phone to the cable which is dramatically cheaper than regular phone service, but during a disaster if your power goes out you've got no phone.

Around the country counties are hooking up systems to notify the citizens about what's going on out there during a disaster using the cell network. For instance in South Carolina there's the FAST (First Alert System Text) program which is an independent nationwide provider of emergency notifications that sends outs SMS (short-message-peer-to-peer) to people's cell phones.

Here in Santa Barbara you can sign up for the Reverse 911 system by going to: . This service of the Santa Barbara County Sherriff department is an automated community notification tool designed to enhance preparedness and facilitate urgent and necessary outbound communications to citizens during emergent events. One of its capabilities is to manually add a phone number to an address that does not already have an existing land-line, in order to communicate an emergency notification to the affected area.

If you've got any questions about the system and how you can get signed up you can drop the Sherriff's Department an email at .

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. And he is a Broker/Associate at Home Realty & Investments, Inc