Sidney Fire Chief Brett Mikkelson stands with a sign advertising the Town’s emergency notification system. To date it has more than 1,200 people signed up. (Steven Heywood/News staff file)

Sidney wants a single emergency notification system

Town to meet with their neighbouring Saaniches about merging under PEMO

Three communities on the Saanich Peninsula are looking into combining their emergency notification systems into one, and Sidney took recent steps to put those discussions into motion.

Town council approved a recommendation to have its fire chief and emergency management co-ordinator meet with their counterparts in Central and North Saanich. The goal would be to talk about how to merge three independent emergency notification systems into one.

North Saanich announced its own mass notification system in March 2017, the last of the three Peninsula municipalities to do so.

Sidney started its system in October of 2016. Central Saanich began theirs in March of 2016.

As of October, 2017, North Saanich had around 350 people signed up, Central Saanich had more than 200 and Sidney topped them both with 1,200-plus at that time.

Earlier this year, during Fire Prevention Week activities, the various fire departments hinted that merging all three systems was being talked about as a possibility. Sidney’s vote in December appears to formalize that process.

What’s on the table is taking all three notification systems and amalgamating them under the umbrella of the Peninsula Emergency Management Organization (PEMO).

The resulting system would be, according to Sidney, administered and funded by PEMO — with money normally allocated to the program by the three municipalities added to PEMO’s budget for that purpose.

Sidney Councillor Peter Wainwright said this would be a voluntary look at merging the services. For Sidney alone, it could save $1,288 a year.

Sidney’s mass notification system annual funding is around $7,224, and that amount would be re-allocated to PEMO in this scenario.

A combined service, according to Sidney town staff, would deliver consistent messaging and potentially increase the people to sign up for it.

Mass notification systems are designed to reach populations — or specific neighbourhoods — with up to date information about disasters or other emergency incidents, from local authorities.

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