News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 10/25/2007
Subject :

Palo Alto Has Mass Notification System in Place
To Keep Residents Informed During Emergency
Contact : SHERYL CONTOIS, Director - Police Technical Services, Palo Alto Police Department    650-743-9911

Alerting System Used to Inform Residents in Southern California Fires is Operational in Palo Alto to Ensure Residents are Ready to Receive Important Messages.

Palo Alto, CA – As horrific fires in Los Angeles and San Diego are forcing residents to evacuate their homes, the City of Palo Alto wants to reassure residents that the mass communication service Connect-CTY from The NTI Group, Inc. is in place to communicate with all residents regarding time-sensitive matters, such as unforeseen events or emergencies. Palo Alto recently implemented the new Palo Alto Community Alerting and Notification System (Palo Alto CANS) to provide city officials with the means to send and track personalized voice messages to thousands of residents, businesses, and local officials in just minutes, through a single request. "The devastation in Southern California is a sobering reminder that, should there be an emergency here, we are ready and able to reach large numbers of residents directly with critical and possibly life-saving information", said Police Chief Lynne Johnson. 

City officials are able to send messages from any Internet connection or phone line and simultaneously reach thousands. Hundreds of thousands of people in Los Angeles and San Diego were able to continue receiving these important messages through their cell phones and stay connected via announcements, even as they entered evacuation locations.  

To ensure that important messages reach residents no matter what their preferred method of communication is, the Palo Alto CANS will send voice and text messages through four different modes of communication:

· Voice messages to home phones, work phones, cell phones, and even e-mails

· Text messages to cell phones, PDA’s and other text-based devices

· Written messages to e-mail accounts

· Messages to TTY/TDD receiving devices for the hearing impaired

With Palo Alto CANS, the City will be able to send messages in multiple languages, and because the service requires no additional hardware, it can be used from any computer with Internet access or just a telephone, ensuring that administrators can send vital messages from wherever they are located, even if they have been evacuated.  After the messages are sent, officials receive reports listing which contacts did not receive the message, giving the option to resend the message to those not reached or follow up via alternative means as needed.

Over the past few months, City staff has been working closely with leaders from the Palo Alto Neighborhoods (PAN), as well as the Palo Alto business community to educate them on the new system, determine what non-emergency purposes the new CANS will be used for, as well as set-up customized notification lists for its employees and the community.  

In mid November, the City, in cooperation with the PAN and business community, will conduct a large outreach campaign urging residents to "sign-on" and provide the City with additional/alternate phone numbers, work and cell phone numbers or email accounts to receive time-sensitive information.  "Although we’re just a few weeks away from a huge outreach for the system, in light of the tragedy occurring in Southern California, we thought it prudent to inform our community that should the need arise, we DO have a mass notification system in place here in Palo Alto, said Sheryl Contois, Police Department Technical Services Director heading up the CANS project for the City."