By Tim Kalinowski
Redcliff and Cypress County will be joining the City of Medicine Hat in a new campaign to raise awareness about the importance of signing up for the “Notify Me Now” emergency contact system. The system was brought in after the 2013 floods as part of the regional emergency preparedness plan shared between the three municipalities. The system already has access to White Pages information, but that represents only about 41 per cent of citizens in the region. The “Notify Me Now” campaign hopes to get to the other 60 per cent of residents who no longer own land lines.
“We want to get more people into the system so we are offering additional options,” explains Kim Dalton, Redcliff’s Director of Community and Protective Services. “We already have the White Pages purchased, but we want people to get involved in the voluntary sign up so we have more coverage. The occurrences of major (disaster) events have increased over the last couple of years. With social media and the ability of technology, different communities are taking different strides (to access them).”
Dalton says the more people signed up, the more effective the system will be.
“This system would give advance notice; so on an occasion of a tornado, for example, 15 minutes is a lot of time in advance notice. This would give everybody with a cell phone advance notice. The faster we can get information the more lives can be saved in the event of a disaster or serious emergency.”
Jason Storch, Acting Director for Emergency Management for Cypress County, wholeheartedly agrees with Dalton.
“It’s all about mass notification,” states Storch. “It’s for use when we need to let people in a specific area know that there is something major they should be made aware of. It’s not a tool we have ever had before. If you are in a situation where people needing to know what’s going on, and they can help protect themselves and their property, any tool we can have to do that more effectively and efficiently can be of value.”
Storch acknowledges Cypress County is still working out the specifics of how to use the “Notify Me Now” system most effectively in an area as spread out as the county is. However, it all starts with signing up as many residents as they can to be on the system.
“If the impact of a disaster was in a defined area, we could, with this system, selectively contact everyone in the immediate circle around the impacted area,” confirms Storch. “And they would all be notified of what’s coming… In this system geographical area is tied in with contact information.
“Just using the example from a few years ago of the flood that occurred in Irvine; our concept is if we have everyone’s contact information in the system, if we had known of that incident in good enough time, we could have alerted the people in Irvine it was coming.”
Both Dalton and Storch say if someone does not sign up to be contacted by the “Notify Me Now” system other, more traditional, methods would be undertaken to make contact in the event of an emergency situation; however, it would sure make it so much easier for the municipalities if residents could make an extra effort to get signed up, either online or through a mail in form, when the sign up campaign officially kicks off in October.
“If people haven’t signed up, we will obviously still be taking steps to ensure people know what’s going on. But this is a tool which will maybe make that process easier and more effective,” states Storch.
“From typical emergency management operations, you can get regular updates with this system, and you are not scrambling to make sure everyone effected receives them,” confirms Dalton. “And not just in advance, but after the fact for regular updating too.”