Concerns are being raised about the province promoting its emergency alert app during the Kenow wildfire, even though officials knew there were problems with the iPhone version.

Shannon Robison — publisher of Shootin' The Breeze, a weekly paper for Pincher Creek and the Crowsnest Pass — says she attended community meetings in Twin Butte and Beaver Mines where provincial officials were urging people to use the app to get the latest information. This was just days before evacuation alerts were issued for the communities surrounding Waterton Lakes National Park.

She encouraged her subscribers and followers on social media to download and use the app.

Now she says the province should have admitted there was a chance those alerts would be delayed when using the iPhone version — in her case by 30 minutes.

"I think that would have been good for people to know in particular. This situation was a very quick evacuation," she said.

"Also, other people would have known to use multiple sources of information."

The province says it has been aware for some time the iPhone version of its Alberta Emergency Alert app has been slow to deliver.

It takes an average of about 17 minutes for iPhones to receive alerts through the app, compared to roughly two minutes for the Android version. That's because the iPhone's deliver rate is about one-third slower than the Android's push rate, according to the province.

More users than anticipated

And the rate of uptake was much greater than anticipated.

The Alberta Emergency Alert app was designed in 2014 with capacity for 50,000 users. Now they have 176,000 users, and of those, about 115,000 have the iPhone version. Usage of the app has grown by about 30 per cent this year. 

By comparison, the Alberta Emergency Alert system has about 214,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, and it takes about eight to 10 seconds to reach them, said Tim Trytten, team lead with the Alberta Emergency Alert program.

"It's not that [the app isn't] working, it's just not getting out there as fast as we would like it to," he said.

The app is one of 12 communication channels the province uses to get information out during emergencies, said Trytten. The others include radio, television and social media.

The province expects the problem with the app to be fixed by Oct. 1, with a target delivery rate of five minutes.

"We're going to do everything possible to meet that target," said Trytten.

With files from Colleen Underwood