California’s Landmark Emergency Alert Legislation Passes Assembly, heads back to Senate for final vote

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sacramento, CA – Senator Mike McGuire’s landmark legislation setting statewide emergency alert protocols and regulation is advancing in the legislature with widespread and overwhelming bipartisan support. The bill passed the Assembly on Monday, will be heard for a final time by the Senate this week and, if passed, will head to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

“California is facing a new normal, the size and scope of wildland fires are getting worse. Lives depend on the Legislature and Governor taking swift action to ensure statewide emergency alert standards are adopted, training for local emergency managers is implemented and we invest in a more proactive and effective mutual aid response system. The safety of our communities depends on it,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “In the age of mega-fires, we need to have a universal emergency alert system in all 58 counties.”

The legislation was introduced by Senator McGuire in partnership with Senators Bill Dodd and Jerry Hill and Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Marc Levine, and Jim Wood. The legislation, for the first time, advances statewide emergency alert standards for all of California’s 58 counties.

SB 833 will establish statewide emergency evacuation alert protocols using the federal integrated public alert and warning system, or IPAWS, as the backbone. The legislation will also mandate annual training for local emergency managers on how to best utilize the software and how to deploy alerts, require that alerts be sent out via landline telephones and mobile phones along with other communication mediums including radio, television and electronic highway billboards.

The North Bay Firestorm destroyed over 6,000 homes, scorched more than 170,000 acres, caused billions in damage, and resulted in the death of more than 40 residents.

“The night of October 8 changed the lives of North Bay residents forever, when tens of thousands of residents were caught unaware that a massive wildland fire was about to engulf their home or business, because they did not receive an emergency alert,” Senator McGuire said. “While there are hundreds of harrowing stories of bravery that night, regrettably, thousands of residents never received a warning.” 

The critical importance of creating a statewide emergency alert protocol was again recognized when some residents in Shasta County didn’t get adequate notice of evacuations during the deadly Carr Fire. 

SB 833 is supported by the California Professional Firefighters, California Fire Chiefs Association, Rural County Representatives of California, the League of California Cities and many others.