(ePACT Network Ltd.)

(ePACT Network Ltd.)

Emergency alerts system goes island-wide

Islanders can register for free emergency alerts by email, phone, and text

Islanders can now sign up for local emergency alerts by phone, text and email.

Called ePACT, the online emergency network can broadcast alerts to users across all of Haida Gwaii, or narrow them to a single area.

Residents can sign up for free at epactnetwork.com/haidagwaiialerts.

The first islands-wide test of the system is planned for 10:19 a.m. on Oct. 19, during B.C.’s annual Shake Out earthquake drill.

“If something is happening that could affect the whole island, then we would send alerts out to absolutely everybody who signed up for ePACT, no matter what community they registered with,” says Kim Mushynsky, chief administrative officer for Port Clements.

Someone who lives and works in different villages might sign up for specific alerts in just those two, Mushynsky said, or for specific alerts for everywhere on island.

Alerts sent through ePACT will come from staff at each village or local government, all of which decided to adopt the system after it was selected by members of the All-Island Emergency Planning Committee. If communications go down at one village office, others can step in to alert residents on their behalf.

ePACT alerts could warn people about natural disasters such as tsunamis, storms, floods and earthquakes, or things such as water advisories, power outages, and unexpected road closures.

While free for users, the annual subscription for the service will cost local governments a total of $1 for each resident on Haida Gwaii, currently about 4,200.

Signing up for ePACT email alerts takes under a minute. It takes a few more minutes to verify a phone for calls and texts, and to fill out an optional questionnaire that asks about things such as vehicle access, households with people who need extra help, and whether a user can volunteer in an emergency.

Users can also choose to enter basic medical information, such as allergies or blood type.

ePACT can be used to set up a personal emergency network, similar to the personal networks found on social media. While still in beta testing, users can send messages to ask everyone in their network if they are okay, or to arrange a time and place to meet.

According to the company, ePACT meets all B.C. and Canadian privacy laws. Except when speaking with the ePACT help desk, all personal information is stored on servers in Canada and secured in ways similar to those used by online Canadian banks.