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Coalhurst switches to AEA

Posted on May 31, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

The Town of Coalhurst has switched to using a provincial notification system for emergencies.

During their regular May 21 meeting, Coalhurst town council was informed about a change in their mass notification system in case of an emergency event.

As emergencies unfold quickly, it is important for the town to have a reliable system to update members of the public within town about unfolding events and developments.

The town has previously used a piece of software called CodeRED to get information out during emergencies. However, the province has since centralized that service into Alberta Emergency Alert (AEA). 

In the event of an Evacuation Alert, Evacuation Order, Shelter-in-Place, or Boil Water Advisory for the town, the municipality would be able to use the AEA system to send out point-in-time notifications to the public to provide important safety information and instructions, as well as directing people to look for updates on the Town’s website and social media channels.

“When we’re talking about an emergency, we’re talking about a wide-scale event that is likely going to lead to potential evacuation or shelter-in-place or something like that, where we have a very specific point-in-time where we need to get information out to our residents, our business people, any visitors in the area, for life safety,” said Christy Henning, director of community development for the town.

Since she came into her role at the town, Henning said in talks with neighbouring municipalities, AEA has been the clear preference, so the change is being made away from CodeRED and to AEA.

Some benefits of using AEA include:

• Is free to use, for both subscribers and the municipality. This switch allows the town to redirect approximately $2,700 USD annually used to subscribe to CodeRED into the annual operating budget for the town’s contribution to the newly developed Regional Emergency Program.

• Is a single source of emergency information across Alberta, so you don’t have to subscribe/follow multiple sources to get information.

• As neighbouring communities use AEA, residents who live, work and explore regionally can rely on a single source of information for emergency notifications.

• In the case of an emergency requiring residents to ‘be aware’ but not take action yet, an ‘advisory’ notification can be distributed to subscribers. Likewise, ‘critical’ notifications, in the case of an imminent threat to life and a need for immediate action, can be distributed to all cellular devices within a specified geographical area, whether the users subscribe to the AEA system or not.

Henning said for her, the most significant benefit is having a centralized location for information.

“We had an experience in my former position in B.C., where we had a massive wildfire and we had residents from 26 different communities come into our community as evacuees, and the number one concern that was raised was they had to look in 26 different places to find information that was relevant to that event,” said Henning. “Being able to have one centralized location for this information can be critical.”

Residents can still follow updates on the town’s website and social media, but they can also find out information through AEA.

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