By Shawn Chitnis
DENVER (CBS4) – The Office of Emergency Management in Denver will test its wireless emergency testing system on Wednesday providing the local agency with another way to contact the public directly on their cellphones.
“We are testing our wireless emergency alert testing system for the first time in the City of County of Denver,” said Loa Esquilin, a public information officer for OEM in Denver. “It’s going to be around 1 million people getting the alert at the same time.”
The test will take place between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. sending an alert to any cellphone within the county, even those not assigned a local number or owned by someone who does not live in Denver. But cellphones must have Amber Alert notifications turned on in their settings to receive the alert.
“It doesn’t matter, if you’re visiting Denver, we have the power to send this alert to your phone,” said Esquilin. “We need to make sure everything is in place, so when there is a real emergency, we’re on it. This system literally saves lives.”
A tornado or a chemical spill are just some examples of when the system could be used by the agency. The goal of the test is not only to make sure staff are ready to use it, but also that the public is familiar with it.
“We are going to be using this system to tell you to either shelter in place, evacuate, there’s a weather emergency. So this system is very, very important,” she said. “We need to make sure how it sounds, how it looks, when are we going to use it, and how are we going to use it.”
Esquilin says the test will be loud and go off three times, phones will also vibrate when the alert is going off on devices. In order to complete the test, the agency had to get a waiver from the FCC to conduct this exercise.
It is one of many alerts that cellphone users now receive, but OEM wants to make sure they have a direct way to reach the public, when the agency is most informed about what is happening. There will be a survey for people to complete after the test to help give OEM feedback.
“We’re on the ground. We own our own jurisdiction,” she said. “We’re the City and County, who better to alert you than the people on the ground.”