With the possibility of flooding, wildfires and other emergencies on the horizon, Tooele County Emergency Management is looking for more residents to sign up for its alert app.
TCEM’s mobile app, Tooele Alerts, is available through the tcem.org website, and provides emergency alerts and advanced warning to resident’s phones.
TCEM director Bucky Whitehouse said more than 50 percent of homes in Tooele County don’t have landline phones. If the power goes out and cell phone towers are affected, there might not be a way to reach residents with important alerts and warnings.
“You need to have as many methods for communication for emergencies as possible,” Whitehouse said.
The county can notify cell phone users in case of an emergency without Tooele Alerts, but they can only reach phones that are connected to the cell phone towers in the county. In a county with a high population of commuters, thousands of residents could be missing out on critical alert information, Whitehouse said.
“If our population is not where they’re communicating with that specific cell phone tower that’s covering Tooele County, they won’t get a wireless emergency alert,” he said. “The only way for them to be sure that they’re going to get an alert is to be a part of Tooele Alerts.”
Once a resident is signed up for Tooele Alerts, they can receive the notification of an impending or ongoing emergency situation, even if they’re thousands of miles away, Whitehouse said.
As of now, only about 3,000 households in Tooele County are registered for Tooele Alerts, according to Whitehouse.
The process to sign up, however, only takes about five minutes. Anyone interested in signing up for the app can go to tcem.org/ or tooeleread.org/tooele-alerts. After clicking on the sign up link, they answer some quick questions, including their name and contact information, to be signed up.
In addition to natural disasters, Tooele Alerts notifies users about severe weather or one-off alerts, such as a missing or endangered adult in the area. Users can also set preferences for what type of alerts they receive.
“Once they sign themselves up for the system, they will have the ability to be able to distinguish as to what type of weather-related alert they want,” Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse recommended setting the app preference to the weather warning level, as advisories and watches are much more common, resulting in more notifications.
Some people have approached TCEM, suggesting the app should notify drivers about accidents on SR-36 and other major routes, but Whitehouse said Tooele Alerts would only be used if the accident caused a complete closure of the road or the delay is several hours long.
“We have those frequently enough that we don’t have the ability to use the system to alert the public of every one of those crashes,” Whitehouse said.
The alert system has already been used multiple times, including when a cougar was loose in Overlake in August 2017 and during the Middle Canyon fire last July.