A test of the City of Regina’s new emergency alert system was more than half an hour late getting sent out to people on Wednesday morning because the city’s server crashed.
The city planned to launch a test of the NotifyNow system at 9 a.m., but most people didn’t get the message until after 9:30 a.m. Called NotifyNow, the new system alerts people through their landline, cell phone or email when extreme weather hits, like a tornado, or when a natural disaster occurs, like flooding. It informs people about what to do and where to go.
Jay O’Connor is in charge of emergency management for the city. He said the server crash at 8:55 a.m. was an unfortunate coincidence in timing, but it also served as a valuable lesson.
“When I clicked save it sat in this continual save loop and I did not know that the network was down,” he admitted. “And with the amount of names and numbers that are in the system it’s going to take a little while. So I actually sat there looking at a broken computer for about 10 to 15 minutes until I realized there was something wrong.”
Once he tried using an alternate internet server from a laptop inside a fire truck, O’Connor said the message actually sent quite quickly. He said the city already had alternative systems available get the message out to people, but the plan was to explore those options later. Now he knows that’s a requirement right away.
“That’s why we do these tests, we want to catch those little glitches and what could go wrong and there’s a very real possibility that our network could be having issues if there was a disaster,” O’Connor explained. “So what we’ve done is just identified a couple of alternate means of sending out the message, so we’ll do that in the future.”
He said he also knows exactly how long the message should take to send and that will help identify a problem faster.
It’s recommended each person within a household sign up individually. Businesses are encouraged to sign up as well to receive a call, text message or email. So far O’Connor said there were more than 7,700 people signed up to receive emergency alerts in the event of a major storm or disaster. He hopes more people sign up soon.
Despite the glitch, O’Connor said the city is not planning to do another test of the NotifyNow system until this fall. He said there is a concern that if they do too many tests, it will become background noise and more people might ignore it in the event of a real emergency.