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"Civil Emergency Message" Issued for Ventura County; 911 Service Unavailable in Ojai

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We're all used to tests by the Emergency Broadcasting System, but, thankfully, rare is the occasion when you hear those sounds, see that screen, and it's NOT a test. That all changed today when I was eating a little lunch and the above image popped up on my TV screen. And it could not have been more nebulous.

What this alert told me was that we were having a "civil emergency." Unfortunately, there was on Page 2 that expanded upon what said emergency actually was.

At this point, I'm pretty sure it's referring to the fact that 911 is not working in Ojai, Oak View and parts of Ventura, and that those needing immediate assistance should call (805) 384-1500. (Update: According to a Ventura County Star article posted at 6 p.m., the lines are now back up and running.)

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More about the alert after the jump.

So, getting back to the alert. There I sat, wondering if it was safe to go outside.

Upon doing some research, I found one online source that stated:

"The Civil Emergency Message (CEM) may be used to announce chemical spills, nuclear accidents, fires, evacuations, road closings, and other similar emergency situations."

That didn't do much to settle my nerves.

A quick search online did bring up a featureon the Ventura County Star's website. According to the article and Ventura County Sheriffs Department spokesman Capt. Jerry Hernandez, callers currently cannot reach an operator when dialing 911 in Ojai, and that calls to other institutions, such as Ojai City Hall and the Ojai Valley Hospital, are also resulting in busy signals.

Though Ojai isn't in LA, it's not too far away, and those traveling in that direction today should take note that they'll need to call (805) 384-1500 if they need to reach emergency personnel.

Update from the Ventura County Star, 6 p.m.

"Phone service, including access to the 911 emergency number, has returned to the Ojai Valley, Oak View and Casitas Springs, authorities said.

The cause was identified as a severed fiber optic cable in the Upper Ojai, according to Ventura County Sheriff officials."

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Hopefully this won't become a growing trend now that everyone's switching over to VoIP...