Charity pancake breakfasts are a time-honored tradition at fire departments nationwide. And for good reason: who doesn't love charity and pancakes? Emergency alerts that go straight to your cellphone, on the other hand, are a relatively new thing that people are already scrambling to turn off. At the intersection of the two is Palo Alto Fire Chief Eric Nickel's invitation to last weekend's annual fundraiser in Rinconda Park.

Although the department has received a handful of complaints ("fewer than 10"), Chief Nickel says sending out the invite was justified, because it also alerted neighbors that a helicopter would be landing in the park. Which, if you're 10 and you love firetrucks and pancakes, sounds awesome:

This is a message from the Palo Alto Fire Department. Palo Alto firefighters will be hosting a community pancake breakfast benefiting Project Safety Net this Saturday, Oct. 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event will include a simulated automobile rescue using the Jaws of Life and a live landing of Life Flight's helicopter. For additional information, please find us on Facebook and Twitter or visit Project Safety Net at

The message was sent to some 27,000 subscribers to the AlertSCC system, which covers all of Santa Clara County from Palo Alto to San Jose and Gilroy. As it turns out, the breakfast was a huge success — Palo Alto luminaries like local real estate kingpin Mark Zuckerberg and new mom Marissa Mayer came out to support Project Safety Net through syrup-doused carbs. No one even called to ask what that helicopter was all about.

[Mercury News]