Alert Ready system in place for B.C. wildfires by June, but not yet heat domes

·2 min read

VICTORIA — An automated alert system will be ready to warn British Columbians of spring flooding and summer wildfires but not yet for extreme heat, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Tuesday.

Farnworth told a news conference the Alert Ready system is all set for the spring thaw and will be in place by early June for wildfires.

However, officials are still determining when it should be used in the case of hot weather, similar to the so-called heat dome the province experienced last summer, he said.

"Right now there's work that's underway with the Ministry of Health in terms of what the parameters should be in terms of a heat warning. That's something that is coming," he said.

Alert Ready is a Canada-wide system that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through major television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices.

The B.C. government came under fire for not using the system to warn residents about scorching temperatures, which the BC Coroners Service later said caused nearly 600 heat-related deaths.

At the time, the province said it was only prepared to use Alert Ready for tsunamis and Amber Alerts for abducted children.

Almost two weeks after heavy rains in November began causing fatal mudslides and surging rivers that displaced thousands of people, the government said it was prepared to use Alert Ready to issue flood warnings.

Farnworth said Tuesday that while officials were prepared to use it in some areas if necessary last fall, it is now in place for deployment provincewide.

While the system is co-ordinated provincially, it is up to local government officials to use it. However, Farnworth said that in extreme cases, the province can put out an alert directly.

The alert is only one of the ways that officials warn the public of imminent danger, he added.

"It will not supplant, you know, people going door-to-door. They will still continue to do that. It will not supplant the police going to communities and saying you need to evacuate now," he said.

"It is a tool, not a silver bullet."

A test of the system is planned for Wednesday at 1:55 p.m.

— By Amy Smart in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 3, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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