As the federal government tests a new national alert system for smartphones, the Government of Saskatchewan is reminding people about its own provincial emergency alert app.
A test of Canada’s federal emergency alert system is set for Wednesday afternoon in Saskatchewan. The system is designed to send push-notification alerts about potentially life-threatening situations to any phone connected to an LTE network.
Wednesday’s federal alert will go out to everyone within range of a cellphone tower in Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, the province is also pushing for people to sign up for the SaskAlert app, which provides more specific details on local emergencies.
Ray Unrau, director of operations with Saskatchewan Emergency Management and Fire Safety, said the SaskAlert app operates within the national alert system, but has actually been in place for several years.
The Saskatchewan emergency alert app also goes a step further by allowing local municipal authorities to send specific alerts for their area based on their needs.
“They have the authority – after being trained in the system – to push their own alerts, and they’ve been doing that successfully for a number of years now,” he said, noting they’ve recorded about 1,000 alerts since the app was introduced.
The responsibility to of pushing the hypothetical button to send the messages does not actually rest with the province.
“We don’t own the button push, but we can certainly assist them and push the button if they can’t and they’ve been able to communicate clearly what their emergency is,” Unrau said.
He added that even in a situation where a municipality asks to have an alert sent on its behalf, there would have to be direct contact with a local authority describing exactly what the emergency is.
“We don’t want to push an erroneous message,” Unrau said.
In the past few years about half of Saskatchewan’s municipalities have had staff trained to use the SaskAlert app system.
Government Relations Minister Warren Kaeding said the province hopes all communities will register for the system.
“We’ve got lots of qualified people that are able to go out and do that training with each municipality so that they understand what the process and protocols are. So I guess we’re encouraging everyone – every community in the province and every municipality in the province to be part of this.”
In some cases, municipalities may be too small for it to be appropriate to train someone on the SaskAlert app. Regardless, the province is urging all residents to download it.
“Even if your municipality isn’t registered to date, they can easily go to the next closest municipality that they would be adjacent to or that they’re familiar with and they would get the most pertinent information from them,” Kaeding said.
You can find more information about the SaskAlert system on the provincial government’s website.