Imagine the next time a flood or fire breaks out near your home, business, recreational property or family member’s house and a notification is sent to your smartphone or inbox.
On Monday, the Thompson Nicola Regional District is launching a new and potentially life or property-saving alert system to communicate with residents during emergencies.
The system, called Voyent Alert, is free to use and allows such notifications by text, call, email or landline.
TNRD director of human resources Debbie Sell worked the emergency operations centre in 2017, when the region was hit by floods and fires.
She said rural residents at the time had difficulty determining whether they were on evacuation alert or order and this type of alert system will help provide clarity in future times of crisis.
The regional district began looking into an alert system back in 2017, Sell said, but the technology was new and the regional district was concerned about implementation while grappling with those emergencies.
“We kept it on our radar thinking about the future and we saw that the system has really progressed in how effective they were,” Sell said. “Then, we thought, OK, it’s probably something good for residents so that they can receive these notifications directly to them when something is occurring that they need to know about.”
Registration is required online. Access to the service can be by downloading the Voyent Alert app on a smartphone or tablet or online at register.voyent-alert.com. It is anonymous but requires a postal code. Sell said the technology allows users to pinpoint areas to monitor.
“For example, if you had your home residence, you can make that a point that you’re interested in,” she said.
“Maybe you work somewhere different, make that a point. Maybe you have a recreational property or your parents’ place. You can actually note all of those places you’re interested in on the app for your smartphone and, if something occurs in the area around where you said you want to know about anything that happens in this area, you will automatically get notification and you can decide if you want those notifications through just a text message or directly through your app.”
It is similar to the federal alert system, but has a more sophisticated look, included mapping. The alert system can include vital information in an emergency, like evacuation routes and services.
The service costs the regional district a $3,000 flat fee per year, as well as between four and six cents per notification.
“For us, we’ll have unlimited use to it, but if we have a year like 2017, of course the notifications would drive up the cost,” Sell said.
“If we had a year like last year, where there were relatively no emergencies, it wouldn’t be much more than the $3,000.”
The TNRD will also explore the potential for utilizing the technology for more day-to-day communications, such as boil water advisories.
Residents can select their preferred method for notification and unsubscribe at any time.