Would you trust the government with your cell phone number? The residents of Ravali County in the United States certainly do not. Authorities in the area have found that out the hard way after attempting to persuade citizens to give their cell phone numbers to government officials. This is in order to be able to receive notifications of emergencies in a form of ‘reverse 911’ scheme, only to find the great majority of people do not trust them enough to give them their phone number.
“Only about two hundred and fifty out of forty thousand residents have signed up,” says Dispatch Director Joanna Hamilton. With more and more people turning to cell phones rather than landlines, officials says that having cell phone numbers on record in order to send notifications of emergencies is essential, a point proven by the Tin Cup fire in 2007. “We had a couple of bad years trying to notify people of forest fires,” Hamilton points out. “With the ‘reverse 911’ capability, we can alert people to fires, floods or other disasters, but only if we can reach them.”
Noble as their intentions may be, however, residents do not appear to be buying it. Distrust of government and fears that handing over their cell phone number will result in an endless stream of marketing calls is seeing most in the area refuse to sign up, despite assurances that those fears are unfounded. “I know a lot of people are scared, with emails being hacked and identity theft,” says program coordinator Charlene Stevens, “but what I’d tell them is this is a basic thing that could save your life or property.”