Storm knocked out warning signal, co-ordinator says equipment failed

A sudden malfunction that interrupted a storm warning in the Red Deer area on Saturday has raised concerns with the City of Red Deer’s emergency management co-ordinator.

A sudden malfunction that interrupted a storm warning in the Red Deer area on Saturday has raised concerns with the City of Red Deer’s emergency management co-ordinator.

Don Huestis has been in touch with officials with Alberta Municipal Affairs and the Emergency Public Warning System after learning Saturday night’s storm had knocked out a signal from a transmission tower in the Red Deer area.

When it happened, some of the public message was cut out following the sighting of a funnel cloud in the Red Deer area around 7 p.m. that night.

Huestis said he understands 10 to 25 receivers failed, affecting various signals to either TV or radio.

“It hasn’t happen in my experience,” said Huestis.

“Having said that, anytime you have technology, there’s potential for failure.”

Huestis, hired last August to oversee emergency management and who has held various similar capacities previously, said the government is looking into the matter.

The Alberta Emergency Public Warning System was created in 1987 following the Edmonton tornado.

It’s hoped that improvements in the system will avoid the massive kind of disruption to service.

Municipal Affairs spokeswoman Jessica Spratt said the government is in the process of asking for proposals concerning upgrading the service.

“It would include access to information, like satellite TV, Facebook and Twitter,” she said.

With these kinds of capabilities, people would be able to hear the message through a number of ways.

The government hopes to have the new system in place in mid 2010.

As for Saturday’s incident, Spratt said it was “so unusual.”

“The thick of the storm was over one communication tower,” she said. “It was beyond our control.”

Environment Canada is investigating to see whether a funnel cloud or a tornado knocked down about 20 huge trees in Central Park subdivision just north of Red Deer. Some homes sustained damage to their shingles.

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