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)

Emergency Notification Systems working for residents of the Saanich Peninsula

Fire Prevention Week: Oct. 8-14

There’s another tool out there for local fire departments to help keep people safe.

It’s called an Emergency Notification System and all three fire departments on the Saanich Peninsula have one.

Simply put, it’s a voluntary system that requires people to sign up for phone calls, emails or text messages from each of the three fire departments.

In an emergency situation, where those officials deem it necessary to notify a large area or group of people, they will send messages explaining what to do and where to go.

In North Saanich, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Knapp says there are around 350 people signed up for the service. Knapp added their next big mass notification will be a test on Oct. 19 during Shakeout B.C. — a province-wide earthquake drill.

“It’s just another tool in the toolbox (in emergency preparation),” he said.

In Central Saanich, their emergency notification system has more than 200 people enrolled.

“It’s an extremely important tool, used in the right circumstances,” said Fire Chief Chris Vrabel.

While the system does lend itself mostly to large-scale emergencies, Vrabel added it’s also handy when traffic had to be notified of a detour in other emergency situations.

The Central Saanich system is currently not taking any more sign-ups, but Vrabel indicated that will soon start up again and encouraged residents to watch for their opportunity to do so.

Sidney is, so far, leading the way in voluntary sign-ups with more than 1,200. That’s around 10 per cent of the population and Deputy Fire Chief Mike Harman said that’s a great reaction in the system’s first year of operation (it had its first anniversary on Oct. 1).

Harman said the system was actually put into service twice in its first year: once when the Peninsula was expected to be hit by the tail end of Hurricane Tonga last November, and the other when there was a gas leak near North Saanich Middle School.

Harman said the system is used for incidents that can affect a large amount of people and typically used sparingly — so that people do not “get used to it” and its signal is lost in the noise of our day-to-day lives.

To learn more about the emergency notification systems in your Saanich Peninsula community, contact your local fire department.

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