Dunrobin families credit emergency warning system for saving lives

Two families in Dunrobin say their children are alive today thanks to the Alert Ready emergency warning system.

Cell phone alert went out shortly before the tornado touched down in Ottawa Friday

Rick Swant (right) says his son Jordan (left) is alive due to the new emergency alert system. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

Two families in Dunrobin say their children are alive today thanks to the Alert Ready emergency warning system.

Rick Swant was grocery shopping in Kanata when he got the first message on his phone about the tornado warning. Like many Canadians who are not used to the wireless alert system that started broadcasting in April, he initially didn't pay much attention. 

"When I got the third one, something kicked in," he said. "Maybe this really is for real."

His children were home alone. Jordan, 15, and Josh, 11, were out in the playhouse in the backyard. Swant called home and told his daughter to get the boys inside. 

Take these warnings seriously. These two boys are alive because of that.- Dunrobin resident Rick Swant

Minutes later the tornado touched down and the playhouse was gone. 

"Our playhouse was completely destroyed," Swant said. 

Jordan Swant says he feels lucky to be alive. "You just don't realize how quick it can just all end ... It was just like a snap of a finger, like that."

The West Carleton high school student said once he ran inside the house, the tornado was upon them. 

"All of a sudden, boom, glass breaks. We don't know how. We all just drop to the ground. Next thing we know, I'm yelling 'Get to the basement, get to the basement,'" said Jordan.

His father is urging everyone to pay attention to the alerts. 

"Take these warnings seriously. These two boys are alive because of that." 

A Toronto-based charity watchdog says local organizations are often better at delivering aid faster than large national charities in the wake of natural disasters such as the September tornadoes in the Ottawa area. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

Children hid under the stairs

Further along Porcupine Trail, Aimee Bridgestock, 12, was also home alone with her younger brother when she got an alert on her cell phone. 

"I got the warning on my phone and I looked at the clouds ... and then we saw the trampoline fly," Bridgestock said.

"I thought I was going to die so I just ran downstairs."

Aimee phoned her father, Ben, who was stuck in traffic. He also heard the alert on his phone and he told the children to hide under the stairs. 

"It went really quiet at one point. I kept asking her what she could hear, what she could see ... they went out from under the stairs and there was glass and mess everywhere so they got upset and scared again."

Eventually firefighters came and took the kids to the neighbours until Ben could get home. 

The Bridgestock family have holes into their roof, their windows have blown out and their garage has been destroyed. 

"There were some much worse than ours. They were just flattened completely. We're just lucky nobody was killed," said Bridgestock. 

Ben and Aimee Bridgestock both received emergency alerts on their cell phones just before the tornado touched down. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)