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Riverside County Fire's Volunteer Alert System faces procedural errors

Published on 1 September 2010
Riverside County Fire Reverse 911 Alert System introduced with procedural errors
Highly trained Riverside County volunteer firefighting force misdirected due to lack of training

The debut of Riverside County Fire's Reverse 911 Alert System led to the misdirection of highly trained volunteer firefighting force due to the procedural missteps.

The debut of Riverside County Fire's Reverse 911 Alert System was fraught with procedural missteps, when they decided to use the untested capability on an actual volunteer firefighter callout.

It was determined that the Fire Department entered the wrong contact numbers, left out necessary procedures and the communication center failed to coordinate the callout. All this contributed to a partial notification and misdirection of the County's over 500 member highly trained volunteer firefighting force.

A huge band of thunderstorms created mayhem throughout the County with lightning generated fires and toppling power polls, quickly overwhelming on-duty fire crews. At 3:40 pm, some volunteer firefighters received an unexpected robotic voice alert call saying it was the Fire Department asking them to staff second roll engines and water tenders.

Because members were never briefed or trained on the new system and necessary procedures, the resulting coverage was less than expected. Sheepishly, the Fire Department sent a short email to volunteer firefighters briefly explaining the new system at 6:28 pm, nearly three hours later. But that message still lacked any detailed operational procedures.

Understanding things can go wrong when new systems are rolled out, volunteer members hope this wasn't an intentional effort designed to make them look bad. Although documents have recently surfaced contradicting allegations made by department officials, their proposal to eliminate volunteer firefighters is still pending before the Board of Supervisors.

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