The City of Saskatoon is searching for a more effective way to reach people and warn them of a pending disaster. Officials believe the answer is a virtual siren that people can carry with them wherever they go.

The City of Saskatoon’s director of emergency planning Ray Unrau would like to see Saskatoon invest in an emergency system that would send people a text message or even phone them in the event of a disaster. It’s called the Everbridge system, already in use in a few cities across the country including Edmonton and Halifax.   

"The most recent successful examples would be out of the states, say the Boston Marathon, where they were able to notify up 300,000 people on an ongoing, rolling basis throughout the day, he said"

The system might also work for natural disaster, such as winter blizzards. The pitch for the Everbridge system goes before the city's planning and operations committee today, and would have to be approved by city

'The problem would be, say, the weekend or night, when we have a hard time finding the actual media'—Ray Unrau

council. It would cost about $30,000 a year to run.

City Hall currently relies on the media. If some sort of disaster is about to strike, officials have no other option but to begin contacting media outlets in hopes they would be able to get the message out quickly. 

"But the problem would be, say, the weekend or a night, when we have a hard time finding the actual media representatives to get our message out," Unrau said.

Saskatoon used to have a series of actual emergency sirens that would send out a loud disaster warning for people. Those sirens were scrapped and fell silent in the late 1990s.