Thanks to its new mass notification system, the City of Red Deer was able to send an important communication out to 43,000 phone numbers during last week’s local state of emergency.
It’s the first time Notify Red Deer has been used in an emergency situation since the city began using the system last fall, said Julia Harvie-Shemko, Communications and Strategic Planning Director for the city.
Even though only about 6,000 people have signed up so far for notifications from the city, during an emergency there is legislation that allows the city to use the phone number white pages to send out important information.
The destructive wind stormfelled power lines and many large trees in the city, causing major power outages and park and road closures. The city was aware of the large power outages but there were also smaller pockets of outages it wasn’t yet aware of, Harvie-Shemko said.
The decision was made to send it out a mass notification through Notify Red Deer on the second day of the four-day state of emergency. The message on June 21 let people know that some power outages could last 72 hours. A phone number was provided for people to call who were without power and in need of assistance.
“I think it’s very effective in an emergency situation,” Harvie-Shemko said.
People did call the city, using the phone number provided, and none of the calls were negative about receiving the message, she said.
When a message goes out from Notify Red Deer, recipients of an alert are asked to respond with a ‘YES’ on their land line (recorded message) or cell phone (text message) so the city knows word got through.
In the case of the mass notification, only about 40 calls did not get through to anyone. That tells the city that the contact information used by system is quite up to date, Harvie-Shemko said.
Since the city rolled out the new system last year, it had only been used to notify those residents signed up for alerts about snow removal in their neighbourhoods.
In the next year or so, the city will look at other ways Notify Red Deer can be used, such as boil water advisories, changes in garbage pickup notices, letting people that the community guide is out, special events like Canada Day and so on.
“We’ve looked at it and thought it was a really great way to communicate to people and that people get to choose what information they would like and how they receive it.”
The city pays a $35,000 fee to subscribe to the service Notify Red Deer uses.
Anyone can sign up whether they live in Red Deer or not. Someone who doesn’t live in the city but has elderly parents here may want to receive notifications.
For more information about Notify Red Deer, or to susbcribe to the city’s service, go online to reddeer.ca/notifyreddeer