New Fredericton app, system will soon notify residents of emergencies

·3 min read
The hope is that the mass notification system will be available for flood season, said a city of Fredericton spokesperson. (Ashley Landis/The Associated Press - image credit)
The hope is that the mass notification system will be available for flood season, said a city of Fredericton spokesperson. (Ashley Landis/The Associated Press - image credit)

A new mass notification system based through a cellphone app will soon let people know when emergencies are taking place in Fredericton.

While the online system will push information through an app, the city's director of recreation, tourism, and community engagement said the same information will also be available through the City of Fredericton's social media and website.

"We've seen a dramatic change in the last few years where residents really want to be communicated to in real time and in a way of their choosing," David Seabrook said.

"If someone wants to grab the information at 5:30 in the morning or six o'clock in the morning, we need to make that information available as soon as we know it."

Fredericton director of recreation, tourism, and community engagement David Seabrook said the system could even be used to notify people of sports field or arena closures.
Fredericton director of recreation, tourism, and community engagement David Seabrook said the system could even be used to notify people of sports field or arena closures.(Shane Fowler/CBC)

The information will be presented to users in English and French as alerts or emergency messages. A variety of departments will share information through the system, starting with the Emergency Measures Organization.

In an interview with Information Morning Fredericton, Fire Chief Dwayne Killingbeck, who is also the head of the city's EMO, said they will be "the app's first customers."

"We're very excited about the possibilities for a wide variety of things," he said.

Will it be ready for flood season?

Seabrook offered the example of a flood on Waterloo Row, the city's roads and streets group and EMO can draw a map of the affected area and publish it through the system, which would alert the public immediately.

Previously staff on-the-ground would send the information to the communications department, who would then put out a news release.

"We want people with the best knowledge on the ground to communicate directly as possible with citizens in real time to give them accurate, relevant information as quickly as possible," he said.

The idea has been in the works for a year. The city went through a tendering process and selected Rave Mobile Safety Software Inc. The three-year contract costs $12,900 annually.

Now, city council is putting together an implementation plan.

While it will be months before the system is functional, Seabrook hopes some functionality will be available for flood season.

Seabrook explained some scenarios where the system might come in handy, such as sending out notifications on field closures.

"So rather than get up and take your kids to the field and discover that when you arrive, you can stay in bed, look at your phone, get the notice," he said. "That way, the parent can simply put the phone down and go back to sleep."

Seabrook said he doesn't know now whether the system will be used notify people of house fires, but those decisions will be made by the various departments in the coming weeks.

"As we implement the system, there'll be a lot of these choices about what level of granular information is beneficial to the public," he said.

"Each department knows its services to the public best and they will make those determinations about what is most helpful to the public."