The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni have chosen the Voyent Alert! app for emergency notifications. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni have chosen the Voyent Alert! app for emergency notifications. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Alberni, ACRD unveil new emergency alert system

Program is a response to criticism of botched communication after 2018 tsunami warning

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni unveiled a new emergency notification system this week. The municipal governments, which work together on emergency services, have chosen the downloadable app Voyent Alert!, which notifies subscribers about potential hazards and emergencies where they live.

The new system will bring emergency notifications to people in Bamfield and the Alberni Valley, including the City of Port Alberni and the Beaufort, Cherry Creek, Sproat Lake and Beaver Creek electoral areas.

“We received a lot of criticism from the January 2018 tsunami warning,” said Heather Zenner, protective services manager for the ACRD. “This is a way we can communicate…where we can share information from an Emergency Operations Centre very quickly.”

Zenner began exploring emergency notification systems as soon as she joined the ACRD. Zenner chose Voyent Alert! because it is already in use in other jurisdictions on central Vancouver Island, including Tofino, Parksville, Qualicum Beach and Nanaimo. Ucluelet uses a different emergency system called Connect Rocket.

Alerts in Voyent Alert! can also be customized thanks to a mapping system, so messages or alerts that are sent out to people living in the tsunami inundation zone can differ from those sent to people who live outside the zone, she explained.

Downloading the app to a smartphone is free. The subscription to Voyent Alert! will cost the ACRD and city $4,000 annually, as well as additional costs per phone call.

“Our region is susceptible to a number of possible emergencies, such as flooding, earthquakes, and tsunamis,” ACRD chair John Jack said. “The last time we experienced a tsunami warning we heard from the public that there were some communication challenges along the way. We believe the Voyent Alert! system addresses those concerns and will help in future emergencies.”

The system will only notify residents if the emergency is significant, such as a tsunami, earthquake, wildfire, boil water advisory, chemical spill, dam breach, and major flooding in the locations that users sign up for. Users will be able to decide if they want to receive notifications through the app, by text, phone call, or email.

“Having Voyent Alert! at your fingertips will give you peace of mind, knowing you will receive information in the case of an emergency close to home,” Port Alberni Mayor Sharie Minions said.

Find out more about Voyent Alert! online at www.acrd.bc.ca/voyentalert. Download the app for IOS or Android, or register with the ACRD by calling 250-720-2702. Registration is free, anonymous, and no information is shared or used for marketing purposes.

The system should be up and running by March. The ACRD will test the Voyent Alert! system at the same time as the tsunami warning system: the first Wednesday of every month at 1 p.m. Subscribers should expect the first test page to come on March 3.

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