Emergency alert system expanded in B.C. to include wildfires, floods

Alert system expanded

Christie Mountain wildfire, Aug. 2020 | Photo: Douglas Drouin

The B.C. government is expanding the use of push notifications to cellular phones during emergencies to also include floods and wildfires.

The Alert Ready system was previously used only for tsunami warnings, Amber Alerts and very rare police incidents.

The provincial government faced fierce criticism in November for not using the system during the atmospheric river and following floods.

“The frequency of threats our communities are facing is increasing due to factors such as climate change, and this expansion of the Alert Ready system in B.C. will ensure we have every tool at our disposal to support public safety,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

“While it’s important to remember that public emergency alerting is intended to complement, but not replace, emergency alerting already performed by Emergency Management BC and local governments, broadcast intrusive alerts have unique advantages with their reach and impact.”

The wireless alert system is ready to be deployed for flooding and will be expanded again for wildfire threats in June.

A test of the alert system will take place Wednesday at 1:55 p.m.

To receive alerts, mobile phones must be connected to an LTE cellular network (the device must be turned on and cannot be set to do not disturb or airplane mode), be alert-compatible, be within the alert area and have up-to-date cellular software. Alerts will be broadcast automatically at no cost to the user.