Municipality adopts new alert system

By Helen Murphy    
April 29 2020

GUYSBOROUGH – District of Guysborough residents will soon have the option of joining of new municipal alert system. Discussions about the need for a way to quickly alert residents about urgent or routine municipal matters emerged following Hurricane Dorian last fall, Shawn Andrews, MODG’s director of fire, emergency and IT services told The Journal Tuesday.

“It’s a way to get information out more broadly than standard social media platforms and quicker than mailouts etc.,” he said. Andrews made a presentation on the new alert platform at council’s strategic planning session in January. The service was discussed and approved as part of the new municipal budget in March.

MODG’s implementation of the new system, developed by an Alberta company, is currently underway. “That entails putting in layers for mapping like fire districts and waste collection routes,” said Andrews. Next will be staff training and the roll out of the new platform, including sign-ups, as early as June or July. The system is optional for residents, and those choosing to sign up can opt for either emergency notices or alerts related to routine municipal business – or both. Using the system is anonymous and free for residents.

“We see it mostly being used for things like waste collection interruptions, sewer service issues, water interruptions etc.,” he said. Alerts will be based on a resident’s address, sharing information related to what’s happening in their area, said Andrews.

“We see this as a strategic investment,” Warden Vernon Pitts said during a telephone interview. “I would recommend everybody sign up for it. This is just a way to let people know, to make sure they are aware of what’s going on around them.”

He said with severe weather resulting from climate change, such as flooding and storms, the system will be helpful for emergencies as well as routine municipal business. “The more you use it, the more you’ll see the benefit.”

The platform is called Voyent Alert. “It’s used quite a bit across Canada, mainly out West,” said Andrews. “But to my knowledge we are the first municipality in Nova Scotia to use this particular program.”

Provincially, EMO has its own emergency alert system that reaches every cell phone, radio and TV in the province. “Ours is a little different in that it is an opt-in service and users can choose how they wish to receive information,” said Andrews. Those options include email, text, voice to landline messages or social media notices. “There are five or six ways to get a message.”

MODG will pay $3500 for an annual subscription to the service.