Subscribers to the City of Victoria's emergency notification system must now download an app called Alertable to continue receiving emergency notifications from the city.
Subscribers to the old version of Vic-Alert will no longer receive notifications. The change came into effect Feb. 1.
The new system will be the main source through which the city informs the public of imminent emergencies or disasters that may affect Victoria, such as gas leaks, hazardous material spills or tsunamis.
The updated emergency notification system is more versatile, allowing users to customize how they receive alerts, what type of alerts, and where they receive them.
“We can send messages geographically to certain areas, as well as choose the type of alerts you want to receive and attach maps and different things through the mobile application,” says Tanya Patterson, the emergency program coordinator for the City of Victoria.
“It also has a feature to interrupt in the middle of the night, even if you have your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb.’ When we send critical alerts, they will come through audibly for you.”
The city had to make the switch to a platform that could handle its significant increase in subscribers over recent years, now up to 60,000 on the old platform.
The city put out a request for a new system through a competitive bid process, with Alertable coming out on top. The app is highly rated, made in Canada, and is free for the public.
So far, 13,000 users have re-subscribed for the new Vic-Alert alert system.
Patterson says it will only send out alerts that are happening within the borders of Victoria, adding that many other municipalities have their own notification systems.
“Vic-Alert is specifically for Victoria,” she says. “You can sign up for it even if you just work or play or visit Victoria and you don’t live here. But do check the regional preparedness website called PrepareYourself.ca if you are from another municipality in the CRD (Capital Regional District).”
The City of Victoria's system is different from the provincial 'Alert Ready' system.
Alert Ready is used for amber alerts and tsunami warnings only. Emergency notifications from Alert Ready are automatically sent to compatible smart phones and news/radio organizations and do not require a subscription.
The city’s system is used for a wider variety of hazards and includes geographically specific information that will only be sent to those subscribed to Vic-Alert.
“The city’s Vic-Alert system will send follow up information with details on the correct action you should take. For example, where to go to be safe, where reception centres might be, how to evacuate, that kind of thing,” according to Patterson. “This Alertable platform offers many new features such as a mobile application and you can receive alerts by text, landline and email.”
For more information and to re-subscribe to Vic-Alert, visit https://victoria.ca/VicAlert.