A forest fire is one of many types of emergency notification the public can sign up to know about via text message or landline phone call now that the SRD’s Connect Rocket system is up and running.

Campbell River and area emergency notification system is now live

‘The most important thing during an emergency is communication…’

You can now get emergency information sent straight to your pocket.

Strathcona Regional District Protective Services Coordinator Shaun Koopman says the regional mass notification system is now officially active and he is inviting the public to sign up.

“The most important thing during an emergency is communication between the emergency operations system and the public to get everyone the information as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” Koopman says. “This is going to compliment the existing systems we already have to do that. We’re still going to be using Facebook, Twitter, using call centres, etc. but this gives us an extra layer of being able to reach 300 people per minute.”

The new system, called Connect Rocket, allows the public to sign up to receive notifications about emergency information on a landline and/or cell phone.

Not to worry, though. Koopman says that’s all it will be used for. After the initial message you receive to inform you you’ve successfully been signed up, you won’t hear from them unless you really need to.

“We’re not going to send out messages about upcoming board meetings or emergency exercises,” he says. “This is only for actual serious events where people will need information in order to save lives or reduce a threat, give an evacuation order, that kind of thing.”

And you probably won’t get a notification about an earthquake, because the earthquake itself is your notification that an earthquake happened.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t an early notification system for earthquakes,” Koopman says. “The province is working on it and eventually we might be able to give people 60 seconds or so of notice. But right now, in an earthquake, the ground shaking is your warning.”

But you will get notifications about impending tsunamis, boil water advisories, flooding events, evacuation orders and hazardous material spills.

“Anything where we need to get a notification to the community to save lives, reduce suffering and protect the health and safety of first responders,” Koopman says.

Koopman’s favourite aspect of the system – other than the fact it will help him do his job in the event of an emergency – is its ability to reach tourists to the area as well as residents.

By clicking on the “I’m a Visitor” button on the website, people have the option to sign up for notifications for a certain period of time and be removed from the system once they leave.

But they can only do that if they know the system exists, which is why Koopman is launching an awareness campaign that involves getting posters and information out to tourism operators.

“I’m hoping to get to all the hotels, the museum, the Information Centre, ferries and anywhere else tourists might be and getting them to help me get the word out,” Koopman says. “As we become more and more a tourism-based economy, it’s very important to let the visitors know this information.”

So if you’re a tourism operator of some kind, he wants you to get in touch.

And for anyone having difficulty signing up – for whatever reason – Koopman says he’s got your back.

“If people have trouble with it, they can give me a call and I’ll come to their home with my laptop and sign them up on the spot if they want.”

That number is 250-830-6702.