Emergency alert tests begin, notification capacity increased

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Suzanne Anton Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Suzanne Anton Attorney General and Minister of Justice
Suzanne Anton
Attorney General and Minister of Justice

Victoria: 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.

News was far from immediate – and even less so when you think of images or notifications of a disaster from distant lands like Nepal.

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 telephones already have been overtaken in popularity by cellphones, and most people get the news via social media, the Internet, apps on their phones 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 marks the latest examples of how we are doing just that.

The national Alert Ready notification system is the new, standardized, Canada-wide program that allows government officials in each province and territory – Emergency Management BC (EMBC) here in British Columbia – 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 Wednesday (May 6). We test because there are a number of partners involved. The CRTC 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.

This week, B.C. 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 – like multi-regional wildfire evacuations or a catastrophic earthquake.

This notification system adds one more tool to the Province’s capability of alerting British Columbians 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 that this new Alert Ready tool, along with other new investments we’re making and continued investigation into additional technological capacity for emergency alerting, will help ensure the maximum number of British Columbians receive emergency information quickly.

Emergency preparedness is a shared responsibility, one that begins in the homes of every British Columbian and extends to every business, industry and level of government. The Provincial government has made a commitment to increased preparedness in the province. It’s a promise we are keeping. In the past year, we have brought together stakeholders to discuss what needs to be done and from that dialogue, taken swift and concrete action.

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