Tuesday, March 7, 2017

[californiadisasters] Guess I'm out of a job....

....until I start posting here, at least!

Well...it's been a great ride....but now it's over.

I'll probably be posting to cadisasters instead time to time, maybe scannorcal or norcalfire.

Figured you might want to know.


Butte County Public Safety Scanner
1 hr ·
Many of you haven't known us very long, so we're including a tl;dr (too long; didn't read) at the top of this post with the basics -
The Short Version -
After 12 years of providing accurate and timely information to anyone who wanted to listen, this will be our last post. Time has marched on and times have changed. We were there when we were needed, but it's time that we take our place behind the next generation of volunteer information gatherers and publishers. Most notable of those publishers are the public safety agencies themselves. We're excited to see the speed of the agencies' posts on social media. Thank you and farewell.
The Long Version -
12 years. We're often aware of the year we started but when we say "We've been at this for 12 years", it just sounds...unfamiliar. When I began this little adventure, I had no idea where it would lead. I certainly didn't think that 12 years after that day I opened the ports in my little router at home to let people browse my website and listen to my scanner that the Butte County Public Safety Scanner would still be a "thing". Until the 2008 fires, it was just me. I would sit at my computer and listen to the scanner and post little blurbs on every major incident I heard, especially if I could hear sirens up in Magalia where I lived. Although I never advertised it, people just found the website and clicked on the links that would start them listening to the feeds. That was back in the day of totally organic traffic based on nothing but keywords and seems so far removed from today's fascinating and ridiculously complex manipulation of Google and other search engine results. Some events really brought the website and its services into the public eye such as the day in 2007 when the Chico Enterprise Record published a front page article about the website and people came into my place of employment at the time to talk to me about it (Ok, ok. You twisted my arm. I'll post the link – http://www.chicoer.com/…/spotlight-protecting-the-community…), and the evening when a local television news station ran my website address along the bottom of the screen which quickly overloaded the site and feeds with all the attempts to connect to it on my sad (by today's standards) 6mbps DSL connection. During the 2008 fires, many people even donated money to us so that we could expand the website beyond my home servers and with that money we were able to support up to 10,000 listeners to the scanner feeds for almost three years. People wanted accurate information fast in times of crisis and the website and feeds filled that role nicely.
When I started this service, the people of Butte County were at the mercy of the local news media's schedule. The only time they could get information about local emergencies was either when the newspaper was published or when the television news was on. Except for the occasional "Breaking News" interruption, the public was limited to getting updated information to just a few times a day. We published information as it happened. In the case of the chat room, it was mere seconds after some event that it was available for all to read in the chat room. Our famous chat room robot, Netbot, was regularly busy handing out information when people typed "!incident" in the chat room.
But the advent of social media has reduced that delay. Private volunteers regularly start Facebook groups and pages dedicated to specific incidents, and some even stick around and provide information (with varying degrees of accuracy) on anything public safety related long after the emergency as ended. In addition to those, and perhaps most importantly, public safety agencies themselves have embraced the power and speed of social media. In the last couple of years Butte County Fire/Cal Fire has been very active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/CALFIRE_ButteCo) and we have noted with great enthusiasm that the Butte County Sheriff's Office (https://www.facebook.com/bcsonews) has been extremely fast with their updates on the Oroville Dam spillway crisis. It is our hope that the social media outlets of the official agencies will continue to do so going forward. For anyone wanting information, what they seek is now just a click away in many cases because of the people who choose to get involved in times of crisis and because they enjoy helping others.
In light of this, it is with a heavy but thankful heart that we announce that this will be the last post of the Butte County Public Safety Scanner. When we began this odyssey, we were needed. No one else was filling the need we were satisfying. But times have changed. Social media allows information (both accurate and inaccurate) to spread like wildfire within minutes or even seconds after it is posted. In fact, the majority of what we have posted in the last year is duplicated across many social media accounts and pages all tuned into the official sources of information. Now those official sources are providing information directly to the public as fast or faster than most of the social media pages sharing their information. And that's a good thing, in our opinion. And it also means that after 12 years of reacting to and stressing over every major fire and incident in the county, establishing shifts for the team to be available 24 hours a day during a crisis, and the ups and downs of running a public information source (and trust us when we say it's not easy, by any stretch of the imagination) our moderator team can finally rest easy in the knowledge that the information everyone is looking for when things go wrong is available for everyone, quickly, without our help.
If you're still reading this far, perhaps you'll indulge us a little further to thank those who have been invaluable to what we do. Just prior to the 2008 firestorms, I launched a web-based chat room on the website so people could discuss the events in realtime. Once the fires started the chat room regularly had over 1,000 people in it, all wanting the very latest, and accurate, information they could find. I asked several of the first guests of the chat room to help me moderate it and thankfully they agreed. We would take shifts and were up day and night providing information to anyone who wanted to drop by. We maintained that chat room for many years and all but one moderator has moved on to other things.
One exceptional woman has been with us every single day since that day I asked her to help moderate the chatroom. If I am the father of the Butte County Public Safety Scanner, she would undoubtedly be its mother. Margarete Taylor, a native of Germany, is that exceptional woman. As this will be the final post of the Butte County Public Safety Scanner, it is only prudent that I extend my warmest thanks to Margarete. She has been here through the good times and bad times and every time in between. There have been a few times I have been tempted to shut the service down but she was always the one willing to stay on and help keep things going. It is because of her undying dedication that the Butte County Public Safety Scanner has been around as long as it has. From the bottom of my heart, and no doubt the hearts of many members of the community, I thank you for your endless hours of listening to the scanner on your wireless headphones all around the house so you could keep the public informed.
Another person I would like to mention is Pamela Alley. Pam had been very active on the Yahoo Groups that centered on public safety happenings (especially fires) and she was a natural fit to help us moderate when our staff numbers had gotten very low. She thankfully stepped up and has been helping us provide information to Butte County for a few years now. Thank you, Pam. The last few years wouldn't have happened without you.
And finally, we'd like to publicly thank Janet Upton. When we went online, she was the PIO (Public Information Officer) for Cal Fire's Butte Unit. At a time when public safety agencies did not like or want the public to be informed by any sources other than established media, Janet embraced us and included us in the information cycle. During the 2008 fires, she often would call US to give us information that we could get to the public faster than any other outlet. Janet has since become the Deputy Director of Communications for Cal Fire in Sacramento and it's easy to see why. She knew back before social media was even an idea, that other forms of news gathering and publication were just as valuable as established media. Thank you for everything, Janet.
I guess that's it. I've said everything the Butte County Public Safety Scanner is ever going to say. To the people of Butte County, Thank You. Thank you for allowing us the privilege of being trusted by you in time of need. It is a privilege we never took for granted and will always cherish. We now join you on the other side of the screen.


Posted by: Pamela Alley <rnrq@att.net>

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