FAQs

The Contra Costa County Community Warning System (CWS) is recognized as one of the nation’s most modern and effective all-hazard public warning systems. The CWS is a partnership of the Office of the Sheriff, the Health Services Department, other government agencies, industry, news media and the non-profit Community Awareness & Emergency Response (CAER) organization, all striving to deliver time-sensitive and potentially life-saving information to the people of Contra Costa County.
For Hazardous Materials incidents at the major fixed facilities in Contra Costa County – The CWS system is automatically activated by refineries, on behalf of the Contra Costa County Health Services Department. The CWS system can also be activated by Health Services staff or CWS staff for these types of emergencies. For “All Hazards” emergencies throughout Contra Costa County – The CWS system is activated by the CWS staff on behalf of law enforcement agencies, fire departments and other agencies in case of imminent threat to life or health.
Each incident is unique due to numerous variables and unforeseen developments therefore no decision making process is the same. However, there are several basic principles that must be met to consider activating the CWS system. The system will most likely be activated if: •The hazardous situation requires the public to take immediate action •The hazardous situation poses a serious threat to life or health •There is a high probability that the hazardous situation will occur
CWS can be used for any situation in which there is an imminent threat to life or health. Some examples of common types of emergencies the system is activated for are: hazardous materials incidents, law enforcement activities, missing persons, utility outages, gas leaks, road closures, man-made disasters, inclement weather, etc. The CWS may also be used to advise affected members of the public when follow-up action is required.
Non-life threatening incidents do not generally warrant the use of the CWS system. The CWS will NOT be activated for public communications that: •Do not request specific and immediate protective action by the public; or •Could be effectively delivered by other means. •Are commercial or political in nature. •Are not authorized by a responsible public safety official. Examples of such incidents are: major traffic delays, hazmat incidents that are contained to the facility (no off-site impact, as determined by CCHS), threats to property, informational only alerts.
The CWS system is generally used only for initial emergency notifications to the public. This message will include the geographic location, the protective action to take, the location of the emergency as well as contact information for the authorizing agency. For details and additional information contact the authorizing agency listed in the message.
CWS may use several tools to alert the public: Landlines; Cell Phone Voice, Text and E-mail (upon registration); Public Web Site; Social Media (Facebook &Twitter); Sirens; NOAA Weather Radios; the Emergency Alert System and the Wireless Emergency Alerting System. For more information on each one of these tools please see our Notification Methods section
When you receive and alert from CWS the caller ID may display as “000000000000”. When you receive this important call, don’t hang up. There will be a short pause before hearing the following message: “This is a message from… ” Once you receive the message, follow the instructions given.
The protective action you will be advised to take depends on the specific of each incident. Some common protective actions include: shelter in place, avoid the area, leave now (evacuate immediate),etc. Keep in mind that the emergency alert is designed to provide initial information and instructions regarding the incident. Please keep yourself informed by continuing to monitor other public safety warning and information systems (such as television and radio) whenever possible. If you have any questions regarding an incident occurring in your area, you can also check this web site for any active alerts.
CWS is funded in its entirety through fees collected by Contra Costa County Health Services Department from hazardous materials facilities throughout Contra Costa County.
CWS may alert you of an imminent threat to life or health in your area as soon as requested by an Incident Commander on scene. The alert will display as a specific type of emergency such as “law enforcement activity”. Also, depending on the type of incident or emergency, the message will instruct you to take protective action such as “shelter-in-place”, “avoid the area” or “evacuate”.
No, Amber Alerts are issued by the California Highway Patrol. CWS will occasionally send alerts regarding missing persons when their life or health is at risk.
CWS may only issue an alert on behalf of the Health Services Department if the incident is deemed to have off-site impact (i.e. odor, smoke, etc.). CWS will alert the affected community about the specific hazardous situation, its location and the recommended protective action to take.
Contra Costa County Health Services, Hazardous Materials Program, established an Incident Notification Policy that includes criteria for the various public notifications requirements during hazardous materials incidents.
Some fixed hazardous materials facilities have terminals to activate the CWS on behalf of Contra Costa County Health Services Department to expedite the notification process when a release has occurred.
You can register to receive alerts for up to 3 different addresses in Contra Costa County. If the address you registered for was not impacted by a specific incident you will not receive an alert. If you registered for alerts and you are not receiving any alerts feel free to e-mail us at cws-staff@cococws.us or call 925-313-9622.
A siren is simply an alerting device that alerts you to a possible hazard in your area. It could be for any number of hazards and is sounded to draw your attention away your daily activities. You may work or live near a hazardous materials facility, a dam or levee, or any number of potential hazards. Even if you are not sure what is going on, fortunately the best first protective action, no matter the hazard is to Shelter, Shut and Listen.
Shelter, Shut and Listen: Shelter yourself, your family, and your pets (if possible) inside, away from the outside air; Shut and lock doors and windows. Turn off vents, air conditioners and fans; and Listen to telephone notifications, radio and TV broadcasts and other sources of official information to learn how long you should stay inside and anything else you should do to protect your health.
Do not call CWS, we will call you! Do not call 911 for information about an incident, unless you are reporting a life threatening emergency. Instead, create an “emergency information kit” and prepare yourself to receive information about an incident. Have your own siren by acquiring a weather radio or register to receive voice and text alerts on your cell phone or e-mail and see a map of current alerts at www.cococws.us.
Generally, test alerts are never sent to the public. Test alerts are posted to the CWS public web site on a regular basis and the message will read: “This is a test of the Community Warning System. In the event of an actual emergency, check this website, TV or radio for more information. Please stay off the phone and do not call 9 1 1 unless you have an emergency to report at your location.” Nonetheless, technical or procedural errors may occasionally cause some or all of the CWS to deliver inaccurate or unnecessary information. If you receive an alert and you are uncertain if a real emergency occurred, you may check the public web site at www.cococws.us. All the alerts issued by CWS will be posted here in detail. Also check TV, Radio and Social Media channels for additional information.
You can download the mobile app after you completed the online registration. Make sure you provide an e-mail address during registration as you are going to need that address to login to the mobile app. After verifying your e-mail address you may be required to enter an "organization code". The CWS organization code for mobile app is "ccccws". While the mobile app may be available, it may not be fully functional at this time.
You don't have to register your landline number. We already have all the landline numbers in our system. A VoIP phone or internet phone connects to your internet router therefore it is not a landline number. If you have a VoIP phone number you will need to register that number in order to receive emergency alerts.