Last weekend, Palo Alto residents were alarmed to receive an emergency alert system text from the local fire department — at least until they saw that the biggest emergency they were facing was a possible shortage of maple syrup at a pancake breakfast.
The Palo Alto Fire Department is defending its use of an emergency alert system to notify residents of a breakfast it was hosting in the area. As CBS San Francisco reports, “About 27,000 residents received text message alerts from the county about the event.”
At least ten people called in to report that it was an abuse of the system — this despite breakfast being the most important meal of the day.
However, Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nichol noted that the firefighters opted to use the system because the event was scheduled to include a life-flight helicopter landing at a school. In the past, such a landing has resulted in 911 calls from concerned citizens. For some reason, Palo Alto thinks it’s important to have a helicopter landing at this city’s big breakfast. Seems like citizens should be less concerned about getting too many texts and more concerned about where their tax dollars are going.
Apparently, scaring the bejesus out of people through shameless self-promotion actually worked because the fire department received zero 911 calls about the event. In any case, officials are now looking into alternative ways to let people know about these kinds of events. Sounds like a good idea, as long as the new plan doesn’t involve using the city’s doomsday air sirens to announce next week’s annual barbeque.