If you have a smart phone – and really, who doesn’t these days? – it should go off on Jan. 31 at some point between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because you should be signed up to receive alerts from the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) emergency mass notification system, Connect Rocket.
That’s the messaging from SRD Protective Services Coordinator Shawn Koopman, who says while almost 5,000 people in the region have already signed up to receive the alerts in the almost two years of the system being in place, the more people receive them, the better the community will be able to respond should something go down.
“Ideally, I’d like to see everyone residing in the SRD signed up to receive the alerts, as well as every visitor who comes to the SRD,” Koopman says.
Although he knows that’s unrealistic, he says it’s important to have as many people signed up as possible.
“We know from studies that very few people will actually take protective action from simply receiving the message alone,” he says. “They need reinforcement from those around them, from their neighbours, from Facebook and Twitter and the radio stations and newspapers. It’s called milling behaviour. It’s common and expected.”
So, kind of like if the fire alarm goes off in the grocery store and nobody is leaving, you might just keep shopping?
“That’s actually a really good analogy,” Koopman says. “That’s literally what happens. It’s been proven in the social science record using millions of dollars in studies on how the public responds to warnings and notifications. Milling behaviour comes up in every one of them.”
You can sign up to receive the alerts even if you don’t have a phone in your pocket, too, because the system is also set up to send voice messages to landlines.
Upon signing up to receive the alerts, system users can choose to receive notices from any or all of the different regions covered by the system. For example, some messages may go out to those who have chosen to receive notifications about Quadra, or the Sayward Valley, or Area D, while others may wish to get alerts about all of the different areas.
Those choosing that option should be aware that each region will be tested separately Jan. 31, so they should expect to receive 17 notifications over the course of the four hours, because there are 17 different areas set up for users to choose to get alerts about.
This will be the second test of the system since its implementation in the spring of 2017.
“Going forward, we’re going to test the system every year in January/February as the new year rolls in,” Koopman says, both to make sure people are signed up on the lists they want to be on – and not on the lists they don’t want to be on – as well as just to remind the public of the system’s importance and confirm its functionality.
But getting the alerts to as many people as possible will only go so far in helping the community in the event of a major event if the public isn’t prepared for one.
“I tell people even if you don’t have room to keep that backpack or tote ready or don’t have it packed yet, at the very least, get the list of supplies you’ll need and post it on your fridge or by your door. That way if you do get that notification, you’re not running around wondering what you need to gather up. Physical items are all insurable, it’s the insurance documents on the USB stick, the personal mementos that make your house a home, those are the kinds of things you want to be grabbing.”
And as always, Koopman reminds people he’s always available to do one-on-one or group presentations to help them be as prepared as possible for any emergency – or even if they just need help signing up for the notification system.
He can be reached directly at 250-830-6702 or by email at email@example.com
Sign up to receive the Connect Rocket regional alerts at strathconard.connectrocket.com