MEDICINE HAT, AB — Saturday’s storm wreaked havoc on the city and was another chance to see the city’s Notify Me Now system in action.
The service was designed to get critical information out during a disaster situation.
Throughout the storm, city staff were quick to post updates on social media and only used Notify Me Now the following day, after the storm had blown through.
Trees all over the city lost branches while others completely toppled over, including on Third Street SE where a tree snapped numerous power poles when it came crashing onto the street.
Roughly 7,000 people throughout the city were without power for several hours.
City staff used social media to let the public know what was going on and what phone numbers to call if they saw a downed line.
Notify Me Now was used on Sunday, alerting the public to a planned outage in Redcliff which was expected to last 20 minutes.
Merrick Brown, director of emergency management, said that’s exactly what the system is supposed to be used for.
“We definitely don’t want to inundate the public with what’s called a push notifications,” Brown said. “Push notifications are, you’re going to receive it, you don’t have to go looking for it. Yes, these are very important, but at the same time when it comes down to just general updates, that’s when we use things like social media.”
Brown added that Notify Me Now isn’t intended for weather alerts, which either come in through Environment Canada or Alberta Emergency Alert.
He said nothing is set in stone and things could be different the next time.
“We always review our processes after and this is actually on the list, when do we use it, why do we use it in any such events, such as a power outage,” he said. “A power outage, one of those events where we could use it, we may want to use it, we may not need to use it, so this is one where we really need to take a step back, look at our processes for it.”
Brown said Notify Me Now is still relatively new for the city and said it will be a learning experience every time it’s used.
The city may eventually look for public feedback, to see what information people expect during an emergency-type event.
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