Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel is defending his department’s use of a countywide text alert system to publicize a charity pancake breakfast after some residents have called into question the appropriateness of such a move.
AlertSCC was set up by the county as an opt-in emergency alert system. According to CBS SF, around 27,000 Santa Clara County residents received text message alerts about the event.
Nickel is justifying the alert by alleging that the department wanted to alert nearby residents that a life-flight helicopter would be landing at a local school as part of the event last Saturday.
For anyone without a smart phone, however, the text fails to mention anything about the landing.
“If I had to do it again, I probably would have put [mention of] the helicopter in the first or second sentence,” Mr. Nickel lamented.
According to the Santa Clara County Office of Emergency Services, the fire department did nothing wrong: AlertSCC gives city officials the leeway to inform the public of upcoming events in their area.
However, some residents are claiming that the amount of publicity from their local government went a bit too far. Resident Erica Schroeder stated to the San Jose Mercury News that she and her husband received two phone calls and an email in addition to the text.
The event raised almost $10,000 for a local youth charity called “Project Safety Net,” which helps prevent teen suicide. And according to the San Jose Mercury News, this was not your ordinary pancake breakfast: both Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer were in attendance.
@NickelEric @PaloAltoFire Thanks for hosting! It was great – Macallister loved the fire trucks and the helicopter!
— marissamayer (@marissamayer) October 13, 2013
“We’ll take a look at utilizing some of those other technologies, and possibly reserving the alert SCC for that emergency notification only,” Nickel stated in an interview with KPIX 5.
Read the full text message below:
This is a message from the Palo Alto Fire Department. Palo Alto firefighters will be hosting a community pancake breakfast benefiting Project Safety Net this Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Rinconada Park, located at 777 Embarcadero Road. The event will include a simulated automobile rescue using the Jaws of Life and a live landing of Life Flight’s helicopter. For additional information, please find us on Facebook and Twitter or visit Project Safety Net at www.psnpaloalto.com.