Friday, June 19, 2009

L.A. gets state of the art reverse 911 system...kinda.

At a cost of over 2 million dollars, Los Angeles County has adopted a reverse 911 system (the government calls you in the event of an emergency). That such a thing is needed, I have no doubt. In particular, for people who live in the hills above Los Angeles the ability to warn of sudden danger from wild fires is vital.

It seems to me however that the system is being heavily oversold. While useful for a limited number of people in isolated areas it seems to me that for the rest of us who actually pay for it, it's pretty useless. It seems pretty clear that the system cannot handle a city wide emergency at all. For example, it was proudly announced this morning that the system can make 1000 calls a minute, which seems like a lot until you consider that there are 7.1 million land lines in Los Angeles. If my back of the envelope math is correct, that means it would take just shy of five days to call every number in the county (assuming that nobody with a cellphone opts into the system-which they are invited to do).

Now I don't know about you, but having to wait five days for instructions from the government on what to do in the event of a hurricane Katrina-type disaster strikes me as a little unreasonable. The reality is that by then I'd either be dead or I'd have fled because I heard about it on the radio...or TV...or the internet...or I'd bothered to finally read one of the copies of the L.A. Times that keeps piling up in my driveway.

The painful truth is that this system will NEVER be useful by the vast majority of L.A.County residents. It's really designed to protect a small number of of relatively rich people who built houses where they probably shouldn't from wildfires, and paid for by millions of poor people.

Enjoy.

The article is here.