Saskatoon ready to test NotifyNOW emergency alert

The city of Saskatoon is unveiling a new $36K emergency alert system called NotifyNOW.

The new system sends out messages by text, phone, and email

"The company guarantees it to be available 99 per cent of the the time," said Saskatoon's director of emergency planning, Ray Unrau. He said NotifyNow also uses 'state-of-the-art' encryption, and does not share any data provided by citizens who enrol for alerts. (CBC)

Saskatoon City Hall is gearing up for a test on Wednesday morning. 

Officials will send test alert messages to citizens using its new NotifyNOW system. The mass-notification system costs $36,000 a year, and sends out emergency warning messages by text, phone, and email. Once a message has been issued, officials can monitor how many of the intended recipients it's reached.

The alerts are intended to send information in situations ranging from evacuations to chemical spills, targeting specific neighbourhoods and areas that encounter "life safety issues", according to Saskatoon's director of emergency planning, Ray Unrau.

"If you are getting [alerts], it is because either your house or something that you've registered in the system is being affected," Unrau said. "If you get something on your phone after you've registered, the reason you've gotten it is because it's affecting you."

So far, 2,500 citizens have logged onto the city's website to enrol for alerts voluntarily. Most have indicated they'd like them sent by e-mail or by text. 

"We drastically want to improve that," said Unrau. "We want that number to be as large as possible to be the most effective system."

Unrau said Saskatoon is the largest community in Canada to sign up for this system. Estevan, Lloydminster and Weyburn are already using it.