Town stands behind decision to use emergency alert system to send COVID-19 related information

Some users questioned if getting information on utility companies is an emergency

Some Bulkley Valley residents took to social media last week to question why the Town of Smithers sent out certain information relating to COVID-19 through its emergency notification system.

When the system was launched two years ago, the Town said it would use it to alert residents to various emergencies such fires, floods and other events. Messages are sent to users on their preferred method of contact: cell phone, home phone, text, email, or work phone.

Users of the the system, powered by Everbridge, were alerted last week with a fact sheet from BC Hydro and Pacific Northern Gas.

The notification included information on flexible payment options, relief funds and warned that due to current conditions both utility companies’ work may take longer than usual.

Some people questioned whether or not this was good use of the emergency alert system.

The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Alan Harris said it is.

“Everything that relates to COVID-19 is deemed to be an emergency under our EOC [Emergency Operational Centre guidelines]. When we get information relating to COVID-19 — which is a pandemic, we want to get it out to as many as people as we can,” he said.

“We heard that some people were not getting enough communication so we are using our Everbridge system, we are using the recycle app, we are using the web page. We understand that some people are looking at it as spam but it is not, it relates to a pandemic. And we are using every means possible to get the message out to everyone.”


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