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Tsunami advisory triggers approximately 900 Saanich Peninsula Alert signups

Approximately 900 people have signed up for the Saanich Peninsula Alert system since the eruption of an undersea volcano in the South Pacific triggered a tsunami advisory.

Those 900 registrations were made from the day of the eruption – Jan. 15 – until Friday, Jan. 21, according to Central Saanich staff. That figure includes all three municipalities (Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney), as residents can sign up for multiple areas.

Central Saanich, North Saanich and Sidney issued a press release on Jan. 20 reminding residents of the service and encouraging residents to sign up for the system.

Jan. 15’s Tonga event happened some 10 months after the system transitioned to a new platform. As of March 25, 2021, subscribers were allowed to select multiple notification areas.

The transition required residents to re-subscribe. By early April 2021, some 5,700 (or 83 per cent) had moved to the system.

Overall, the alert system sent out approximately 21,000 notifications on Jan. 15. That number, however, is not the same as the number of residents who received notifications, because individuals may register for multiple types of notifications for the different areas. The system pushed out 8,066 voice calls, 6,733 text notifications and 6,013 emails notifications. While landline numbers will receive only voice calls, mobile phone numbers can receive both a text message and a voice call.

RELATED: Greater Victoria municipalities advocate for local emergency alert systems

Central Saanich staff said it is difficult to pinpoint how many notifications did not go through. Since residents can sign up for three types of notifications, the available figures could create a false impression. Overall, the system failed to connect with 76 emails and 16 phone numbers while 103 texts to landlines bounced back.

Reasons could be closed email accounts, changed phone numbers and busy landlines that kept ringing busy for a number of tries before the system cancelled out, staff said.

Residents who had previously signed for the alert system before the transition and did not receive a notification of the Tsunami advisory on Jan. 15 may need to sign up again following the change, the joint press release said. “Residents who have registered with the new service provider (Connect Rocket) and did not get an alert should contact their local government so they can help address the issue,” it read.

Overall, staff said the system made a difference.

“In the case of the weekend advisory, the system allowed us to tell Peninsula residents that (Central Saanich’s) Emergency Program was monitoring the situation and would be ready to act if residents needed to be evacuated,” the statement read. “This is just one extra tool to provide our residents accurate information.”

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Wolf Depner

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Wolf Depner

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