During wildfires, Marin residents should be prepared to monitor multiple sources for fire and life safety information. Emergency managers will use several methods to distribute fire information: Alert Marin, Nixle, Social Media, local TV and radio, and social media (Facebook and Twitter) are the primary outlets. Don’t neglect to use your own senses–look, listen, and smell for signs of fire and changing conditions!
At a Glance
Each communication platform delivers different types of information across multiple channels.
Emergency alerts by phone (voice), text message, email, app
When action is needed at a specific address
Imminent flooding, wildfires, and evacuations with life safety implications
During-event information about evacuation routes, shelters, transportation
Other public safety incidents where lives may be at risk
Information notices by text message
When information is needed in a zip code
Road closures, general updates, issues affecting larger areas
Post-disaster information about shelters, transportation, or supplies
Police activity and general public safety information
A Closer Look at Alerts and Warning Systems
During a wildfire, “Alert Marin” is used to provide notice by phone, text, email, or app when an ACTION must be taken at a SPECIFIC ADDRESS.
If a wildfire requires evacuation in Marin and time allows, emergency managers will use the Alert Marin system to send out notifications by telephone, cellular, VOIP, and text message users who have pre-registered specific street addresses. If you live, work or go to school in Marin County, you should register to receive emergency alerts sent by voice, text, email, or smartphone application. You can register to receive notices for several locations you are likely to spend time at, or monitor family member’s addresses as well. Register every address, phone number, and device in your household. Don’t delay.
IMPORTANT! ALERT MARIN IS USED WHEN ACTION MUST BE TAKEN AT A SPECIFIC ADDRESS! ALERT MARIN IS NOT A GENERAL PUBLIC INFORMATION SOURCE!
It’s important to understand that you will NOT receive routine notifications whenever the fire department responds to a fire in your neighborhood. Alert Marin is used when there is a threat to lives or a need for evacuation or other action. In most cases, firefighters are able to quickly extinguish fires without the need for evacuations, and no notification will be sent. Nixle may be used to provide more general fire information to areas affected by smoke, to help residents of larger areas understand the source of smoke and ease concerns (again, it’s NOT the system used to send evacuation notices!)
You MUST pre-register to receive Alert Marin evacuation messages by cell phone or VOIP (Comcast, DSL, or satellite home phones, for example).
Alert Marin messages are infrequent and important. Please be sure to set the Alert Marin contact numbers for “Emergency Bypass” on your mobile phone (more information is here).
During a wildfire, “Nixle” is used to provide INFORMATION by text message targeting ENTIRE ZIP CODES when new INFORMATION becomes available.
Register for Nixle by texting your Zip Code to 888777 or register online to configure and fine-tune your messaging options.
Please understand that during a wildfire, initial messaging may take time to develop as firefighters focus on attacking the fire and gather information. Do not expect frequent updates by Nixle (or Alert Marin). Information will be updated only when conditions change or updates are warranted. Social media or TV and radio are good options to monitor for “play-by-play” updates.
It is important to understand that Alert Marin and Nixle are different, complementary systems, and currently require separate registrations! Nixle is an opt-in text message service used to announce local information, targeting zip codes. You are likely to receive frequent, low-level, non-emergency texts from many local public safety agencies by Nixle. Nixle may be used to provide general fire information or rebroadcast evacuation alerts, but Alert Marin is a separate and distinct system targeting specific street addresses with the ability to send voice, text, or email ACTION messages. Fire Safe Marin recommends that everyone register for Alert Marin and Nixle, and understand the difference!
A NOAA Weather Radio can be an excellent source of information during emergencies. Prices vary from $20 up, depending on the model. Many receivers have an alarm feature, but some may not. Check the NOAA website for more details.
Local emergency officials (Marin County Office of Emergency Services) can send an evacuation alert through the NOAA Weather Radio system. This system was used successfully in Sonoma County during the 2019 Kincade Fire.
When an evacuation alert or severe weather watch or warning is issued by local officials or the National Weather Service, many NOAA Weather Radios are able to alert you with a loud warning tone or siren, giving you the seconds you need to evacuate or seek shelter. Local agencies may issue evacuation notices through this radio-based system as well, providing a backup notification system to homes that may be without power or out of cellular communication range.
In late 2020 Fire Safe Marin and the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority (MWPA) began a pilot program to distribute NOAA Weather Alerting Radios to some Marin residents. This short video helps explain the configuration and use of these radios for alerting to weather and wildfire emergencies.
NOAA Weather Radio Discount (Good Through 8/1/21)
Fire Safe Marin can now offer a 30% off discount to Firewise Communities through MIDLAND for a total of $27.99 (w/ free shipping) when you purchase your NOAA Weather Radio at https://midlandusa.com/product/wr-120-weather-radio/. Use the code “MARIN” at checkout for 30% off, includes Free Shipping.
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent sources of public information and may be used by local agencies during emergencies. Be sure to follow your local fire department, Marin County Fire Department (@marincountyfire), Marin County Sheriff’s Office (@marinsheriff), and your local police department to monitor fire information and receive updates during local wildfires.
Local TV and Radio
Monitor local news and radio stations for fire information. In Marin, AM 740, AM 810, FM 106.9, and FM 88.5, are good options. In West Marin, KWMR FM 90.5 Point Reyes & FM 89.9 Bolinas are excellent local options. And, KPIX, KRON, KTVU are good local TV news sources.
Wireless Emergency Alerts
Wireless Emergency Alerts are well known as the system used to distribute “Amber Alerts.” These are sent to large geographic areas, and may be used to send information for large-scale emergencies and disasters. Be sure to verify that Wireless Emergency Alerts (Amber Alerts and Emergency Alerts) are turned on in your cell phone’s settings. For example, on an iPhone, under settings/notifications, scroll to the bottom of the page and ensure all alerts are turned to ON.
A new application for mobile devices now available in Marin County is designed to provide the public with real-time fire agency incident information and to help locate CPR-trained people near someone in cardiac arrest. This app can be configured to send alerts to your cell phone when wildfires, structure fires, or other emergencies are occurring in your vicinity – even emergencies that do not require evacuation.
The free PulsePoint app, available on the App Store and Google Play, recently expanded its geographic scope so that Marin residents will have access to real-time fire incident information, and local bystanders in Marin can be alerted to administer cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if needed. When pre-selected, cardiac arrest alerts are sent to participating residents only when an emergency occurs in a public place.
Fire Safe Marin recommends that all Marin residents register for Alert Marin and Nixle. Pulsepoint can be an informative tool for residents who understand that they don’t need to evacuate everytime a fire is burning nearby, but who want to keep informed.
WILL YOU NOTIFY ME EVERY TIME A FIRE IS BURNING NEARBY?
It’s important to understand that you will NOT receive routine notifications whenever the fire department responds to a fire in your neighborhood. In most cases, firefighters are able to quickly extinguish fires without the need for evacuations. Alert Marin will normally be used only when there is a threat or need for evacuation, and messages will only be sent to the addresses impacted!
Remember, Nixle and Twitter, as well as local tv and radio, are good sources for local information, but are NOT the official evacuation notification system in Marin. Do not rely exclusively on these alternate sources for evacuation information!