Emergency alert tests have begun

Notification capacity increased to help British Columbians during disasters

There was a time when news came at predictable hours of the day: a newspaper on your doorstep or a nightly newscast that we tuned into for our daily dose of local, regional and international information.

Today, we live in a digital age with a 24/7 news cycle, where we expect information to be available instantly and on demand, regardless of where we are. Landline phones have already been overtaken in popularity by cell phones and many people get their news via social media, the Internet, apps on your phone or other non-traditional outlets.

It’s the responsibility of government and emergency authorities to keep up with modern technology and with the expectations of British Columbians. National Emergency Preparedness Week marked the latest example of how we are doing just that.

The new national Alert Ready notification allows government officials in each province and territory – Emergency Management BC (EMBC) here in B.C. – to issue emergency alerts through major television and local radio broadcasters. The system can be used to interrupt television and local radio shows with important information on disasters and emergencies where lives are at risk.

B.C. tested the Alert Ready system for the first time on May 6. The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunication Commission (TRTC) has mandated that broadcasters have their systems ready to go, and we want to make sure that, in the event of a disaster, everything works as it should.

B.C. has also invested $1 million for the first phase of a new emergency notification management hub and a mobile alerting app that will help amplify the notifications that can be sent through the Alert Ready system.

Through a partnership with TELUS, this funding will help EMBC improve the speed that alerts can be sent, automate the distribution of emergency alerting across multiple channels, and increase the types of alerts that can be delivered to cover a variety of disasters and hazards.

Once the Alert Ready system is fully operational – expected in March 2016 – we intend to target alerts for the affected regions within B.C. However, some alerts could be province-wide or for very large regions where the size or scope of the emergency warrants it – such as multi-regional wildfire evacuations or a catastrophic earthquake.

This notification system adds one more tool to the province’s capability of alerting B.C. residents to emerging hazards or threats. The province, through EMBC, already provides tsunami alerts through the newly upgraded Provincial Emergency Notification System, as well as through the @EmergencyInfoBC social media channels.

Our expectation is these new investments and continued investigation into additional technologies will mean many more B.C. residents receive emergency information more quickly.

The introduction of the new national Alert Ready notification system, along with investments and upgrades to other notification systems, will go a long way towards helping us prepare the people of this province to recover and remain resilient after an emergency.

Suzanne Anton is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice.


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