The City of Surrey recently became part of the notification network Alertable, and is encouraging residents to sign up to receive emergency notifications on extreme weather, natural disasters, and other hazardous happenings.
With the option to receive notifications on your cell phone, home phone, or through email, Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas is hopeful that folks, digitally connected or not, can be better informed about emergencies and the city’s responses to them.
The option to receive alerts through landline phones is one of the big reasons why the city chose to join Alertable, as opposed to other emergency notification networks.
“We know a lot of seniors —- people over 70 that were vulnerable to the heat dome —- only have their old home phones or hard-line phones … they can sign up with that number and then their phone will ring. Typically they answer and then they can hear the message from the city’s emergency program,” Thomas says.
Last summer, 619 people died during the heat dome and 67 per cent were 70 or older, and 56 per cent lived alone. Surrey had the second highest number of heat-related deaths at 75, following Vancouver which had 117 deaths, according to the coroner’s report.
By making emergency alerts more accessible to everyone, Thomas hopes this will close the fatal gap the Surrey Fire Service observed last year should a similar extreme-weather situation happen again.
Now if in another heatwave, Thomas says they could send alerts informing people on how and where the city is offering reprieve from the heat, information on what heat-emergency signs and symptoms to look out for, and messaging from the health authority.
“It starts with the individuals themselves to be prepared,” Thomas says.
Since the city joined the network in May, around 6,700 people have already signed up, and with more promotion and door-to-door assistance to sign folks up, they’re hoping to increase that number.
Using Alertable to inform and warn folks about severe weather is part of Surrey’s Extreme Weather Action Plan —- a coordinated response to extreme heat, cold, and smoke —- which was approved by Surrey City Council on June 27.
The app is available for download on Apple and Android devices. Once the app is on your phone, click the app and enter “Surrey” into the location search bar. A highlighted area will appear on the map, and then click “next.”
After this, users can decide if they want the app to “follow you.” This means, the app will track your geographical location to send you customized, location-specific “nearby” notifications.
Then, select what kind of notifications you want to receive. Critical notifications are always on, but you can opt-in for advisory and information alerts. Afterwards, you can select what sound you’d like for alerts and then click “Finish.”
“I think the takeaway is that there’s lots of good information that can come if you sign up for the Alertable app [during] an emergency,” Thomas says.