NORFOLK, Va. – Some folks in Norfolk may have woken up to the sound of an emergency alert on their cellphones Monday morning.
The unmistakable sound is meant to get your attention.
“It definitely kind of raised up some red flags and was more of an alarming kind of, 'Uh oh - what’s going on?'” laughed Tyler Briggs of Norfolk, who got the alert.
The City of Norfolk coordinated with the Norfolk Department of Public Health to issue the alert through the Emergency Operations Center.
The wireless emergency alert should have gone out to residents notifying them about entering Phase 2 of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and where to preregister.
Jim Redick, the director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the City of Norfolk, said the public safety alert qualifies as an emergency.
“It’s an emergency because we see the COVID numbers rising,” Redick said. “We have a lot of vaccine and vaccinators here AND not everyone is aware of what’s available to them.”
Norfolk has seen a slight uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases in the past month, going from 9.2% on March 1 to 10.8% on April 1.
Redick said the city wanted to alert as many people as possible about signing up for the vaccine.
“We wanted to make sure we leverage what technology we have at our disposal to really let everybody know,” he said.
According to Redick, Norfolk pays for a subscription to use the emergency alert service, costing taxpayers $68,000 a year. He added that all cities must have an alert system.
Briggs doesn’t think Monday’s notification was an urgent matter.
“I feel like that would be more for severe storms or an amber alert,” said Briggs. “I feel like that would be more appropriate for that situation rather than just letting you know that shots are available.”
Redick stands by the decision to issue the public safety alert in this case.
“We feel we did the right thing putting out the message,” Redick said. “I would rather over-communicate than under-communicate.”
The alerts can be disabled through the settings in a cellphone, which is why some folks in Norfolk may not have gotten it on Monday. Redick, however, doesn’t advise disabling alerts because he said you could miss other notifications for protective actions, including evacuations and weather-specific alerts.
Phase 2 means all people aged 16 and older are eligible for the vaccine. To preregister for the shot, head to vaccinate.virginia.gov, or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682).