By April 2018, cellphones will receive Alberta Emergency Alerts for incidents like this summer’s wind storm in Red Deer regardless of whether the app is downloaded onto the device. (File photo Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Mobile phone notifications to help Red Deerians in emergencies

When an emergency strikes – whether it’s like the Pine Lake tornado in the summer of 2000, which killed 12 people, or the recent wind storm in Red Deer – mobile phones can keep you in the loop.

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission ordered new directives in April to keep all cellphone users informed. Canada’s wireless operators will be required to install technology to transmit emergency messages to phones without the need for any additional applications.

Currently the Alberta Emergency Alert System app is needed in order to receive provincial emergency notifications on your cellphone. Locally, you can sign up for Notify Red Deer, which sends text or email alerts in emergency situations.

During the recent wind storm, those signed up for Notify Red Deer were some of the most satisfied residents, said Mayor Tara Veer.

Having the ability to get information to all cell phone users on an LTE mobile network through automatic notifications, even if they don’t have the provincial app or aren’t subscribed to the local system, makes for a safer Red Deer, said Veer.

The provincial notification system “has great potential to save lives,” she said. “Any opportunity we have to get information out in a timely manner has the potential to protect citizens.”

If people are informed of something dangerous happening, there is more time to ensure their safety, said Karen Mann, Red Deer Emergency Mmanagement coordinator.

“There are many potential benefits to this type of alerting technology,” Mann said. “It allows communities to provide direction and life-saving information, such as evacuation or shelter-in-place direction, to more people all at once. The consistency in messaging can decrease confusion and increase responsiveness from the public to directions from public safety officials.”

Being able to have these alerts go to people who are from out-of-town or may not know about the alert app exists is a big plus as well, Mann said.

“People have their phones on them at all times – they carry them everywhere they go, they have them beside their bed at night – and this makes cell phones a great way to get in contact with people when emergencies are occurring, day or night,” she said.

Despite this technology helping people with cellphones get emergency information, there is still the need to focus on getting the information to those without mobile devices, Veer said.

“We still need to be mindful of using traditional methods of notifying the public as well.

“In our emergency planning that we still need to factor in the full spectrum of demographics in terms of how people receive their information,” she said.

The deadline for wireless providers to implement the emergency notification technology is April 2018. By 2019, all phones sold in Canada will need to be compatible with receiving alerts.

You can sign up for Notify Red Deer at www.reddeer.ca.

sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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