Mi'kmaw alert system expands to Lennox Island

·3 min read
Jennifer Jesty, left, who created the alert system visited Lennox Island Fire Chief Richard Guimond last week to talk about how alerts are sent out. (Submitted by Jennifer Jesty. - image credit)
Jennifer Jesty, left, who created the alert system visited Lennox Island Fire Chief Richard Guimond last week to talk about how alerts are sent out. (Submitted by Jennifer Jesty. - image credit)

Lennox Island First Nation now has a new tool to use in emergency situations.

Last week the community partnered with Jennifer Jesty, of the Union of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq, to launch the alert system she created.

"It is usable right now, it is an opt-in system," Jesty said.

"If we needed to send out an alert right now we could send out an alert right now. It was really interesting to me and exciting that within the first hour of us sending out that social media advertisement … we had 35 people registered in an hour."

Everbridge, a company that works with organizations around the world on mass-notification systems, created the system.

Jennifer Jesty via The Canadian Press
Jennifer Jesty via The Canadian Press

The alert system works similarly to other alert systems by sending a notification to people's cell phones, but this system goes a step further by allowing chiefs to send out alerts directly to their communities, Jesty said.

"It will call the house phone, call or text the cell phone or email. When you register for the system you tell us how you want to receive that alert," she said.

There is also an option for chiefs to record their own voices in the Miꞌkmaw language.

"It's a significant benefit when you are talking about trying to communicate something so urgent and important to our elders," she said.

The system can be used to alert Mi'kmaw communities on everything from boil water advisories to missing people.

Tony Davis/CBC
Tony Davis/CBC

Kelly Sark is a member of Lennox Island First Nation. She volunteers with the local fire department and worked with the Aboriginal Women's Association of P.E.I. focusing on missing Indigenous men.

She said she is happy to hear the alert system is in place.

"It's very good to have this type of alert in our community because it gives us more of a faster response time when it comes to missing people or boil orders or severe weather warnings. I think we should have had this a long time ago," she said.

Sark's brother, 28-year-old Jamie Sark, went missing in late August. His body was found Nov. 12 in a heavily wooded area on Lennox Island First Nation.

"It might have helped because in the moment when Jamie went missing the ground search and rescue was out, not a lot of people knew what was going on at first, not a lot of people were aware in the beginning," Sark said.

"If we had this system last year, everybody in the community would have got that notification and would have been alerted a lot sooner."

"I'm actually brought to tears most of the time. I am so proud of this." - Jennifer Jesty

Jesty said the system has been effective at bringing missing people back home since it launched in Nova Scotia in 2020.

"We have sent a total of 110 alerts over the 18 months the system has been operational. We've reunited 35 young people with their families," she said.

"I'm actually brought to tears most of the time. I am so proud of this."

Lennox Island contacted Jesty about the alert system, and she said other Indigenous communities have also been asking about getting the system.

Right now there are about 4,000 people registered for the system across five communities.

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