Communications manager for the City of Prince Rupert, Veronika Stewart, holds up the in-house designed municipal app launched April 9, 2018. (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)

City launches its own app and emergency notification system

Following January’s tsunami alert, the City of Prince Rupert has a new warning system in place

In response to the recent tsunami alert raised on B.C.’s coastline, the City of Prince Rupert has launched its own in-house app and emergency notification system.

Service disruptions, council meetings, bylaws and emergency information will be available to download for free starting April 9. The city’s IT department has been working on the general municipal app for a year, but the other system — Connect Rocket — is specifically for emergencies.

“It has been used in other communities. It’s relatively inexpensive and it’s subscriber based. You have to sign up for it,” said Veronika Stewart, manager of communications for the City of Prince Rupert.

“We are going to have sign up forms available at several locations around town. People can fill out the form and city staff will pick them up. We’ll target places like the seniors centre, the hospital, places that people go regularly that are willing to take on these forms.”

Residents can provide either their landline or mobile phone number, or email, and during an emergency they will receive an emergency push notification with information specific to Prince Rupert.

The province is also rolling out its own system to provide B.C. residents alerts for large-scale disasters or emergencies starting May 9.

READ MORE: Next tsunami alert will be on your phone

“Our statement on that is the most local information you can get is probably the best because it will be the most specific to your area,” Stewart said.

The city’s alert system also applies to visitors to the area. The notification app has an option to sign up as a visitor while they’re in the city and it will expire as soon as they leave. The city will provide the information to hotels, Cow Bay Marina and places that might see itinerant vessel traffic.

For those who don’t have a cell phone, or who put their phones on do not disturb mode at night, landlines will automatically have a robotic voice that will come through to issue the alert. Stewart said they are reaching out to places such as the North Coast Transition Society to register so, for example, the homeless shelter, will receive notifications in the event of an emergency as well.

As for sirens, the city is not planning to install the warning system any time soon. “We can have emergency vehicles run their sirens downtown in the event of an emergency as an alternative,” Stewart said.

The cost for the new Connect Rocket emergency system is $3,000 a year, plus .4 cents per notification. However, the costs are recoverable through Emergency Management BC, Stewart said. “Part of the reason that the city chose these particular services is that they were cost effective and also effective in terms of the service they provide,” she said.

READ MORE: Here’s how Canada’s national public alert system will work

Brochures are also being distributed to homes to let people know what to do in case of an emergency with the most up-to-date emergency evacuation procedures and what areas to avoid.

With this new system in place, the city has also issued a study in January 2018 for a tsunami hazard modelling with flyover data of the local area.

“They’re going to provide us with data on what specific local hazards are. They’re going to be looking at landslide potential surrounding Prince Rupert. What that might look like, because that is one of the things that has been flagged for us as a potential concern is that if there’s a significant landslide in the area that could push water into Prince Rupert,” Stewart said.

To sign download or sign up for Connect Rocket and the city app visit: http://princerupert.ca/emergency/

 

shannon.lough@thenorthernview.com 

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