With the current wildfire situation, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) has decided to launch an emergency notification system earlier than originally planned to get important information out to the public in the event of an emergency.
SLRD Alert enables district staff to quickly and effectively communicate with all registered contacts through telephone, text or email messages, spreading vital information like evacuation orders, directions to the nearest emergency shelter, and details on family reunification. It is intended for use in a variety of situations, such as “severe weather, floods, debris flows, unexpected road closures” and other emergency events, according to an SLRD release.
Partially modeled after business networking service LinkedIn, ePact allows families to build their account, enter their contact details and “connect and share that with friends and family who act as emergency contacts, as well as groups like the SLRD,” explained ePact cofounder and CEO Christine Sommers.
Initially slated for launch next week, the system, developed by Vancouver-based ePact, was released early due to several wildfires around the region.
The service is offered free to all those residing in the rural areas of the SLRD’s electoral boundaries. It is not currently available in Pemberton, Whistler, Squamish or Lillooet, where local governments are tasked with emergency management.
Whistler and Pemberton area residents still have the option to sign up and receive notices from the SLRD, however.
“Different emergency management teams are looking at ePact now, so maybe in the future they’ll adopt it,” Sommers said.
To register, visit www.slrd.bc.ca/services/emergency-management/slrd-alert-sign.
The Resort Municipality of Whistler uses its own mobile app internally to rally staff and centralize its response in the event of an emergency. It was developed locally by Vectorbloom and launched in November. The municipality is considering selling the software to other local governments as well.
SLRD chair and Whistler Councillor Jack Crompton said, “it’s exciting to see two local software companies developing tools that are extremely useful for emergency management.”
Sommers, who said the idea for ePact came after a friend spent hours trying to get in touch with her children in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in 2011, believes the more tools that are out there to help people in crisis, the better.
“There’s opportunities down the road for all of us to come together and fill bits and pieces because not one solution is going to be the be-all, end-all for emergencies,” she said.
The ePact network also has applications beyond emergency management. Currently in use by several community groups and sports organizations across B.C., including the Whistler Youth Soccer Club, it is a quick and easy way for coaches and medical personnel to access up-to-date medical information in real time.
“If there’s a problem, (users) can take their handheld device and see exactly what’s going on with a child in medical distress,” explained Crompton, who also serves as vice president of the local soccer club.
Check out www.epactnetwork.com fore more information.