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The proposed system would alert residents by phone, text or email. (CBC)

The city of Charlottetown wants to set up an emergency communications system to every home in the city.

The reverse 9-1-1 system would give residents a potentially life-saving heads-up by phone, text and email in an emergency, such as a hurricane that requires evacuation.

"It gives us the ability to contact local residents and alert them or notify them of an emergency," said Deputy Chief Gary McGuigan.

The system would cost about $50,000 to set up, according to city officials.

A similar system was used on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., last week, when a gunman killed two people.

Students and faculty received emergency messages, warning them to stay indoors.

The high-tech alert system was put in place at the campus after it became the scene of the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. On April 16, 2007, 33 people were killed, including the gunman.

Charlottetown's system would be able to target just a few homes, entire neighbourhoods, or the whole city, depending on the situation.

Was used during royal visit

The system, made by a New Brunswick company called Sentinel Systems, was set up on P.E.I. last summer for the royal visit.

It would have notified police, fire and ambulance crews en masse in case of emergency.

Having thousands of pieces of contact information on the police department's list does pose questions about confidentiality, but the city is confident it can address those concerns and create safeguards to prevent misuse.

The city's protective and emergency services committee will draw up guidelines, which council must approve.

"We're going to have to be selective how the system is used," said committee chair David MacDonald.

"We want it to be a system, where if the phone is flashing, they know it's a message worth listening to," he said.

The system might also be used for more routine matters, such as road closures due to accidents, or to notify residents of proposed zoning changes in local neighbourhoods.