San Francisco quake alerts via SMS.

Do you live or work in San Francisco, or know someone who does? AlertSF is a free service that will send text messages to your phone, BlackBerry, or pager whenever an earthquake occurs in the city. The alerts may also include potentially critical information about where to get help or emergency services after a disaster. The system is also set up to deal with a tsunami hitting San Francisco.

To sign up, go to http://alertsf.org and sign up for a new account. You'll need to enter an email address (that will become your login) and password, then tell the system what kind of phone or pager you have and what it's number is. Once you've created an account, it will send a confirmation text message to your phone. You can also pick one or more areas of the city or specific addresses that you're interested in, so you can keep tabs on your home, office, and child's school, for instance.

Important note: Systems like this can only work if your carrier's cellular network is still available after a disaster. If a tsunami strikes your city and knocks down all the cell towers in a particular region, your cell phone will not work at all, for voice or for text messages. It's also important to remember that you may not be able to recharge a cell phone if the power is out. However, if your phone is working and the cellular network is available, text messaging can be an extremely effective way of communicating during an emergency, and services like AlertSF can really help.

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