SANTA ROSA (CBS13) — Thousands of people around Sonoma County have spent the last two days at emergency shelters around the community as firefighters work to save their homes.
Cellular service has not been the best, in fact, it’s made it extremely difficult for many people in rural areas to locate family members.
Santa Rosa resident Liela Greiman left her home Monday morning after emergency management officials evacuated her entire neighborhood as homes there were threatened by fire.
“We didn’t have any way to make our cell phone work, all the cell phone towers aren’t working and so it’s taken me two days to contact relatives and they have been in such a panic,” she said.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office says more than 100 people have been reported missing since homes were evacuated. Lack of cellular service in some parts has made it impossible for people to reach their loved ones.
“In the early days of a disaster, of course, people are separated, and they are traumatized so it’s very important for them to be able to exactly find out what happened to their lives ones,” said Roy Pitts, shelter manager, Finely Center.
Volunteers with the American Red Cross are visiting each shelter in Santa Rosa, passing out pamphlets and sharing information about a relatively new program called Safe and Well. It’s designed to bring loved ones great peace of mind and make communication easier for people who may experience bad to no cellular service.
“It's critically important, especially with this disaster, there is a lot of our elderly, there has been a lot of skilled facilities that needed to evacuate and have gone to the shelter and loved ones are looking for them,” said Virgina Becker, American Red Cross.
Here is how Safe and Well works: all a person has to do is sign up on the Red Cross website with their name, phone number and a message. The person on the other end of that message also has to register to read that message and connect. It’s a valuable tool helping people who may not how long they will be away from their homes.
“It doesn’t look likely that will be back in our home area soon because they say there is no water, no power,” said Greiman.
People can also call 1-800-Red-Cross to register over the phone for the program, or if they don’t have cell service, volunteers at all the emergency shelters are prepared to help with finding their loved ones.