'Critical to get that information out': Charlottetown emergency alert system to roll out in fall

Charlottetown's new mass emergency notification system is scheduled to roll out in the fall, but city employees have already began testing the system.

City has been testing the system for the past month

Alerts will be sent using a variety of platforms including social media apps, text messages, email, text to landline and cell phone. (CBC)

Charlottetown's new mass emergency notification system is scheduled to roll out in the fall, but city employees have already begun testing the system.

Every day at 12:30 for the past month, the fire department has been receiving a call and a text message, to ensure the system works properly.

The system sends out alerts to allow first responders to advise residents quickly so they can make effective and timely decisions when there's an emergency.

"If there's an imminent threat going to hit the city, whether it be a hurricane or a blizzard, power outage, that sort of thing like an ice storm, I think it's important that the citizens know that information as quickly as possible, and with social media today you have to keep up with it," said Randy MacDonald, Charlottetown fire chief.

'We need room to work'

Charlottetown Fire Chief Randy MacDonald and Deputy Fire Chief Tim Mamye test the city's mass messaging system. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

The city has a three-year contract with the company Everbridge for the system, at a cost of $13,000 a year.

The system can send messages to a large number of contacts, via social media apps, text messages, text to landline and online posts. 

MacDonald said having a mass notification system available gives the city another tool to keep residents safe.

"In emergency services, we need room to work," said MacDonald.

"We may be on a street, or a block of streets, dealing with a large incident. We will divert traffic away from it and we'll broadcast that as quickly as we can to make sure we have room for emergency vehicles to access the site as quickly as possible."

'Panic could increase the situation'

Charlottetown Coun. Terry MacLeod said it's important to be prepared for any type of emergency and it's critical to be able to get the necessary information out quickly and accurately.

"Sometimes public panic could increase the situation," said MacLeod. 

"So, we need to make sure the public is informed and those few seconds is the difference between a firefighter maybe pulling a person out of a fire that's alive instead of the opposite. So, it's critical that this information gets to everyone."

When the system launches, residents will be able to receive alerts through an app when emergencies arise.  

The mass notification system will be free for residents to use but will require they sign up.