Emergency alert notification system launches in Waterloo region

A new alert notification system is coming; Alert Waterloo Region sends public safety messages to people when large scale emergencies occur, such as flood, severe weather, or other emergency situations.

People who sign up could receive alert notifications via call, text or email

AlertWR has been in the works since 2017. Several emergencies that happened within the region initiated the creation of the alert system (Mike Segar/Reuters)

People in Waterloo region could soon be receiving public safety messages via a phone, text or email as the region prepares to launch a new alert notification system Friday.

Alert Waterloo Region (AlertWR) will send public safety messages to people living in the Region of Waterloo when large scale emergencies happen, such as floods, severe weather, or other emergency situations.

"It's really important for public safety that we can notify our citizens and businesses that there is an emergency in the area," Sandy Van Solm, manager of emergency management for the Region of Waterloo, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.

All cities and townships within the region are part of AlertWR, which is also in partnership with Waterloo Regional Police Service.

AlertWR has been in the works since 2017, after several emergencies within the region initiated the creation of the alert system, Van Solm said. 

"It's an acknowledgement that we were missing a tool in the tool box," she adds.

One notable emergency that year was the flooding of the Grand River in West Montrose in June 2017, when community members felt not enough notice was given by officials including the Grand River Conservation Authority.  

More than 100 millimetres of rain fell in the northern part of the Grand River watershed between 3 and 5 a.m. on June 23, 2017, but some people told CBC News they weren't warned of flooding until that afternoon.

At the time, the conservation authority held a community meeting in partnership with the Township of Woolwich and said it would look at using technology for better flood forecasting and to give people advance notice in the future. 

How it works

People who want to receive alerts can sign up through the AlertWR website, which also notes the primary number associated with the resident's hydro provider will automatically receive alerts. To receive a text message or email, people will have to make a profile for themselves and any family members. 

Van Solm said notifications will indicate the type of emergency and instructions on what to do.

"If we have a chemical release, we would tell people to take shelter, for example," she said.

So far, more than 600 people have signed up for AlertWR.