Would you let your smartphone share your location if it meant that one day you could come to a stranger's rescue?

Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

In an emergency, the last thing you want to hear is, "I can't understand you." The reality is emergency dispatchers in the Northwest generally speak one language, English. But in our increasingly polyglot society, some people in distress inevitably can't communicate in English. Correspondent Tom Banse takes us inside a 911 call center to find out what happens then.

Courtney Flatt / Northwest News Network

The most destructive wildfire currently burning in the Northwest has left thousands of people without air conditioning and refrigeration. It’s closed most gas stations and shut down ATMs in north-central Washington. Okanogan County currently estimates 150 to 200 homes burned to the ground. The County Utility District says its electrical system is almost a complete loss. Meanwhile, in Brewster last night, incident commanders of the region’s biggest and most destructive wildfire briefed residents Sunday night. Correspondent Courtney Flatt spoke with residents who are coping without power, and reports from that tense Brewster meeting.

ICMA Photos / Flickr

This week, the four biggest mobile carriers met a voluntary deadline to be ready to allow consumers to text to 911. But don't try that in an emergency just yet, because 911 dispatchers in the Northwest don't have the capability to receive your text for help. The necessary upgrades are coming slowly all around the country.

Century Link Explains How 911 Call System Failed

May 1, 2014

Century Link has given the state an explanation for the 9-1-1 service outage earlier this month. 4,500 emergency calls did not go through during the outage, which hit most of the state.

feesta / Flickr

This weekend Oregon's Office of Emergency Management coordinated the largest test ever of the state's emergency communications network. While the exercise was considered a success, it also shed light on one of the system's vulnerabilities, a lack of qualified amateur radio operators east of the Cascades. 

Photo by Tom Banse / Northwest News Network

Most of the tsunami warning sirens in one Oregon coastal county will go silent in the New Year. Communities up and down the West Coast are phasing in more modern forms of emergency alerts. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Spokane County’s 911 staff will soon grow, in order to speed up answering time. Paige Browning reports six call receivers will join the call center in the new year.

Photo courtesy Wash. Deptartment of Natural Resources

Fire bosses at the scene of a destructive wildfire in central Washington gave an upbeat progress report at a community briefing in Cle Elum Friday. Firefighters targeted full containment of the nearly 23,000 acre blaze by Sunday. Reporter Courtney Flatt is on the scene. She says the mood at the community briefing was more curious than anything else.

Photo courtesy Wash. Department of Natural Resources

A large wildfire in the remote mountains of Central Washington state has burned 22 thousand acres . The Northwest News Network’s Anna King reports the fire has destroyed at least 60 structures from Cle Elum.

Nearly 800 firefighters have been battling the wind-whipped fire for several days. 18-year-old Tyler Oversby stared as giant plumes of smoke crept closer to his hometown.

Health officials are urging people to take steps to stay cool during the hot weather. Forecasters have issued a heat advisory for the next few days. Temperatures are expected to peak in the low-90s in Western Washington. Ruby de Luna reports Young children, elderly people, and those with chronic illnesses are especially vulnerable.

One Housing Sector That’s Booming: Survival Realty

Aug 2, 2012
Photo by Jessica Robinson / Northwest news Network

The housing market in the Northwest is finally showing signs of recovery. But there’s one sector of real estate that never let up during the economic downturn. Real estate agents who sell what’s known as “survival realty” are experiencing boom times. As Jessica Robinson reports, a remote corner of the Northwest has become a hotspot for home buyers wanting to ride out disaster – natural or otherwise.

The next time a big wildfire erupts or an earthquake unleashes near you, Twitter, Google and Facebook might be useful places to turn. And not just you. Disaster response agencies are plunging into social media. They can develop better situational awareness by seeking out your online gripes and observations. Digital platforms also provide an avenue to give more frequent official updates and correct misinformation during a catastrophe. Correspondent Tom Banse reports.

Western US Faces Air Tanker Shortage

Jul 6, 2012

As wildfires continue to burn in the West, the U-S Forest Service is going to battle this summer with fewer air tankers. The number of planes that drop retardant on fires has shrunk significantly over the last 12 years. From Boise, Scott Graf has more now on what led to the shortage, and what’s being done to fix it.

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

One quarter (12 of 39) of U.S.-operated tsunami warning buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans are out of service. That includes the two tsunami detection buoys directly off the Pacific Northwest coast. But as Correspondent Tom Banse reports, the warning system has some redundancy built in.

An environmental group has rated each state’s strategy for dealing with climate change. Problems can range from droughts to rising sea levels. As correspondent Courtney Flatt reports, two of the Pacific Northwest states are well prepared.