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North Shore residents urged to get disaster response app

North Shore Emergency Management can alert residents and tell them how to stay safe
798660-NSEM33
A North Shore Emergency management staffer uses a smoke signal during the Nov. 18, 2015, disaster response simulation Operation Windshield.

Now hear this! Alert! Achtung!

North Shore Emergency Management is changing the way it warns residents of emergencies such as severe weather, natural disasters and industrial hazards.

The tri-municipal response agency is asking everyone to download an app called Alertable to be kept up to the minute when every minute may count.

“This is really a powerful tool for the public to stay informed, to receive information quickly about emergency situations in their community, and situations where life safety is considered to be a major factor,” said Emily Dicken, NSEM director. “It's free. It's simple to use, and … we feel like it's the best way to connect during a disaster.”

Previously, NSEM was using a system called Rapid Alert, but Alertable is much more sophisticated in what it can do, Dicken said. Using geolocation software, they can target a message to specific areas and deliver specific instructions. It's also much more visual and easy for users to understand.

“It allows us to do more than just send a notification. It actually allows us to provide information on the action that we want people to take. So, whether people need to evacuate, or whether it's actually safer to shelter in place, which could be the case for different events that we would see across the North Shore.”

It’s also less likely to jam up the cellular system, which will be critical if there’s a catastrophe, she added.

So far, about 15,000 people on the North Shore have downloaded and registered with Alertable.

“We hope that that number will significantly grow,” Dicken said.

Starting on Sept. 1, the Rapid Alert accounts will be closed, according to NSEM.

Alertable is available through Apple's App Store or Google Play.

According to NSEM, the North Shore's Alertable licence has been donated by Chemtrade Logistics, which runs a chlorine plant in the Maplewood industrial area.

Questions about the app can be sent to nsem@nsem.ca or by calling 778-338-6309.