CK public alert system to be considered at budget time

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Gajus

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is a step closer to the possibility of getting its own public alert system.

A report that was brought before council on Monday night examined the costs and feasibility of a notification system for residents.

According to the report, one big gap that an alert system would fill is landline phone communication. Depending on the type of event, alerts are currently sent out through social media, media releases and the Chatham-Kent subscription email service.

“It has been identified that the notification systems currently in place by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, at present, target those residents with access to cell phones, social media, and email only,” stated the report. “There is a gap in our notification systems specifically for those residents who solely rely on landline telephones. As a result, these individuals will have no access to this information in a timely manner.”

Councillor Mark Authier was the driving force behind the idea. In February, Authier brought forward a motion requesting that administration research a notifying system that can alert certain parts of Chatham-Kent or the whole municipality when there is an urgent update or emergency.

Authier previously told Blackburn News that the idea came after there was a boil water advisory in Tilbury and he heard from several frustrated residents who weren’t aware the advisory was in place until after it had already been cancelled.

To create the report, Chatham-Kent administration looked at the alert system software called Everbridge, which is currently utilized by the Town of Tecumseh. The technology is also used by Essex County and the Windsor Fire and Rescue Service.

Everbridge is used to alert citizens of localized emergencies and provide general alert information for public events occurring in the residents’ related area. The events can range in severity from boil water advisories to a snow maintenance event. The software is primarily used for alerts that are not already covered by other outside agencies such as Amber Alerts and severe weather warnings.

According to Adam Walters, assistant fire chief, the system would also not replace current methods in place for Chatham-Kent.

“Most of the social media subscription services and media release uses that we have currently in place would still be maintained… This would be above and beyond those as well,” said Walters.

According to staff, the notification system is priced by population size. Chatham-Kent can expect budgetary pricing for the software and implementation of around $50,000 per year. The media and marketing budget to bring awareness to the program would be added to the software costs. With additional media and costs, the Everbridge Alert system is estimated to cost a total of around $75,000 per year.

The Town of Tecumseh estimated that it uses the alert system six times a year on average.

Ultimately, councillors voted in favour of including the funding for the public alert system in the 2021 budget for council consideration.