Only about two per cent of Lloydminster residents have signed up to the city’s emergency alert program.
At its regular meeting on Jan. 26, council approved the city’s 2015 emergency response plan. Part of this plan is the city’s emergency notification system, which the city uses to send out information and directions in the case of a disaster. At the council meeting, it was revealed that 566 accounts have been set up.
“We would love to see more people signed up,” said emergency management co-ordinator Anne Danielson. “If there is an emergency or disaster its going to be a community response and we’re definitely going to want to pull together.”
Residents can sign up at lloydminster.ca/emergencyalert. Once on the site, users must set up an account and specify how they want to be contacted, if they have any useful skills or supplies or if they have special needs. Subscribers can also select parts of the city to receive alerts for. For example, a parent can subscribe to alerts specifically relevant to the area near the school their child attends.
City Coun. Larry Sauer says some people might not be signing up to the alerts because the thought of emergencies may make them feel uneasy.
“I know that we’ve publicized it,” said Sauer. “We’ve put it out in brochures that have gone out to households. Maybe it’s something that people (think), ‘Natural disasters? Is that going to happen here?’ Chances are it’s not, hopefully not, but it is there and it would be great if people became informed and did subscribe.”
As a practice exercise, the city sends out a test message to subscribed residents on the third Wednesday of every month at noon. The alert does not require any action, and simply states that it is an emergency test message. City employees, however, receive an emergency message at a random day and time once each month.
“We like to keep the element of surprise, because that’s a really good way to test the system. Disasters don’t happen just Monday to Friday during business hours,” Danielson said. “Staff have been very accepting of it and they always respond so quickly, so its been a really good test of the system. They don’t know when it’s going to happen, they just know it’s going to happen once during the month.”
The city’s emergency plan must be approved annually by council, and this year there were no significant changes, aside from some people’s names. But Danielson says the plan is still a “living document.”
“I think we have a very strong foundation with that plan,” she said. “But we don’t want it to be something that just sits on the shelf. We have to implement what we have in that plan, whether that’s the emergency alert system and how we’re going to notify people and making sure that we’re testing that, running emergency exercises and working with our community partners year round.”