The fledgling emergency alert system, Vic-Alert, received an unexpected boost in popularity after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake centered 280 km west of Kodiak, Alaska prompted an early morning tsunami alert to be issued Tuesday.
Launched about nine months ago by Emergency Management Victoria, Vic-Alert allows people to register their phone numbers – cell phones or land lines – and email addresses for free to receive warnings, updates and helpful instructions in the event of emergencies that may impact the community.
When the earthquake struck, phones across the city began buzzing with the first tsunami warning issued at 2:43 a.m. The Vic-Alert system sent warnings to everyone registered in the affected areas and offered advice on where to go and what to do.
Although the tsunami alert was ultimately cancelled at 4:40 a.m., the utility of the system resulted in a tidal wave of registrations for the service.
“Yesterday we had a total of about 6,500 people registered with Vic-Alert,” said Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency preparedness co-ordinator. “As of this morning we have 23,000 people registered for the system, so I guess word got out about the service and people have realized it’s a good thing to install on their phones.”
The system is designed to inform people in and around Victoria about events that could potentially impact their health and safety. It will also issue alerts about missing persons with immediate safety or medical concerns, dangerous situations such as armed robberies in progress, and a variety of natural disasters or weather warnings.
While the system is specifically designed to issue warnings about Victoria proper, Patterson said Sidney and North Saanich have their own systems, as do the Gulf Islands. Other municipalities, including Esquimalt and Saanich, are said to be exploring similar systems.
Patterson pointed out that people outside the City of Victoria are able to register for the alerts, but need to be aware that the warnings are geographically specific to Victoria.
The alerts go out regardless of where the person may be at the time, she added. “You don’t have to physically be in Victoria to receive the alert. It goes out to the registered number or email address regardless of where you are.”
In addition to the Vic-Alert system, Emergency Management Victoria provides free, monthly, public information systems at Victoria City Hall and will bring the information sessions to other locations at the request of community organizations.
To register, simply visit https://vic-alert.connectrocket.com and follow the links.
The same site provides a wealth of information on emergency preparedness, including a helpful brochure and a video on what the average person can do to prepare themselves for emergency situations.