Public safety: Teri Figueroa
Helicopter loudspeaker: What’s that?
It’s so frustrating, hearing a Sheriff’s Department helicopter loudspeaker overhead, knowing that something important is being shared, but making out only words like “last seen” or “missing.”
Last week, I could have sworn the loudspeaker message said they were looking for 450-pound suspect who had run off. My husband heard it that way, too. And a neighbor also thought that’s what it said.
Now people no longer have to wonder about those hard-to-hear messages. The department announced last week it has a new notification service that will provide the script the loudspeaker is broadcasting.
Call or text “hello” to (858) 866-HELO (4356) to hear that helicopter message, or have it texted back to you.
The department makes announcements from the helicopter loudspeaker for several reasons, including sharing information about a missing person or the hunt for a suspect. They might also broadcast announcements during SWAT standoffs, natural disasters, and several other circumstances.
A few caveats. First, the messaging system is only available for announcements in areas the Sheriff’s Department is responsible for patrolling — nine cities throughout the county, as well as unincorporated areas.
Second, the service is free, but you might have to pay for the text messages, depending on your cellphone plan. Third, this is not an automatic push to your phone. You have to call or send the text each time you hear the helicopter.
The department is working to go one step further, hoping to get the scripted message from the loudspeaker broadcast to go out automatically via Twitter. The department’s Twitter handle is @SDSheriff , but that automatic push has not started yet.
In reporting on this new offering, I have to (sheepishly) admit I was comforted to learn that I’m not the only one who strains to hear muffled words. “This is actually the number one complaint that we get,” Lt. Ricardo Lopez said.