In preparing for this year's upcoming flood season, the Town of High River has purchased its own emergency alert system that will let residents choose how they receive critical notifications.
What warrants an alert?
High River ALERT can send notifications about:
- Critical emergency alerts (immediate threat to safety)
- Severe weather warnings for High River
- Public safety notifications (water, utility, fire, RCMP, transportation)
High River was one of the hardest hit areas in southern Alberta during the 2013 flood. Residents were forced to abandon their homes as the flood waters rose and many residents are still out of their homes nearly a year later.
In light of last year's devastating flood, the town has been working to make sure it can warn residents the next time lives are on the line.
"Within seconds after issuing the alert, people will be getting text messages or emails or calls to their home phone or whatever device they wish us to reach them by," said Albert Flootman, High River's director of emergency management.
High River ALERT is similar to Alberta Emergency Alert.
Flootman says High River's system is mean to supplement the provincial alert system — not replace it.
"We rely on Alberta Emergency Alert which, as you probably know, when there's critical alerts will interrupt radio and television broadcasts. But not everyone has the radio and television on to receive those alerts," he said.
"We don't see it as competing with Alberta Emergency Alert in any way. It's just another layer, another approach. Alberta Emergency Alert is not set up to provide notifications to home telephones for example, so this is a means by which people can get that message even if they only have a home phone and not a cell phone or an email account."
The system was created by Everbridge, an American company, but the town purchased it through Commalert, an Alberta company.
Residents who sign up for the service will receive alerts based on their geographic area and can enter up to five addresses into the alert system, such as their home, workplace, children's school or daycare.
Only those who sign up for the service will receive alerts to their chosen method of contact.
All data collected is hosted on Canadian servers, collected by Everbridge on behalf of the town of High River.
The system cost about $9,000 for the first year and $5,800 per year after that.
So far, Flootman says about 300 residents have already signed up.