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NEWS RELEASE · 12th November 2012
Ministry of Justice
To continue to protect the public safety of British Columbians, government is modifying and enhancing its emergency tsunami notification processes to offer greater broadcast of initial alerts to the public, local authorities and emergency responders.

Through this process, when Emergency Management BC (EMBC) receives an alert directly from the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre (WCATWC), it will now forward it immediately to a priority emergency e-mail distribution list that includes all local authorities and first responders that receive provincial emergency notification system (PENS) updates. The list also contains major provincial media contacts, including those best suited to alert communities at risk of a potential tsunami. This system will be tested throughout the next month to ensure complete functionality.

Once the notification has been provided via the initial e-mail distribution, EMBC will be posting information on its Twitter account, ,,,EmergencyInfoBC, blog and other social media outlets to continue to update British Columbians throughout a potential disaster.

B.C.'s ongoing review into October's tsunami warning response identified this modified process as one that would more quickly disseminate tsunami information and push it out to those who need to receive it.

The review has also identified additional improvements - specifically aimed at timeliness and greater public accessibility to these alerts - which have now been implemented, including:

* A mobile version of the EMBC blog, available at www.EmergencyInfoBC.gov.bc.ca

* If you have an RSS app on your smartphone, you have the ability to sign up for blog notifications at http://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.c /atom.xml

* Approved partner Twitter accounts that ,,,EmergencyInfoBC can retweet to followers while B.C.-specific information is being confirmed

* Development underway of an interactive map of tsunami warning zones, including a community finder, so the public can determine whether they are at risk should there be a warning

* Template blog posts to increase the speed of information posted to the EMBC blog

* Digital recordings that will be made available of the latest tsunami warning information on EMBC's SoundCloud site:
http://soundcloud.com/bcgov/sets/emergencyinfobc

Another reason for this early action is that the US National Weather Service (NWS) notified EMBC this weekend that it will be modifying the service delivery of its alerts for B.C. and other jurisdictions in Canada and the U.S. Specifically, while EMBC will still receive alerts directly, the NWS will no longer be issuing email and SMS tsunami notifications to the public, most local authorities and emergency responders starting in 30 days. It has indicated that current users of its e-mail alert system will be able to subscribe through an alternative provider, but details of how to do this have not yet been made available.

Going forward, the NWS has committed to continue sending out tsunami notifications on its NWS Tsunami Alerts Twitter account, ,,,NWS_WCATWC. Government is encouraging British Columbians and their families to sign up to receive these updates via SMS alerts by texting "follow NWS_WCATWC" to 21212. You can also sign up to receive additional alerts from EMBC by texting "follow emergencyinfobc" to the same number.

Quotes:

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond -

"Public safety is our number one priority. As we experience ongoing seismic activity in this province and the tsunami warning in late October, it's a good reminder of the critical importance that British Columbians have timely and accurate access to information in the event of a disaster.

"We made a commitment to review our earthquake and tsunami response and we are now taking action to implement some of the early recommendations identified. I am confident that these steps taken by Emergency Management BC will enhance how we provide tsunami alerts quickly to British Columbians, local authorities, media and first responders, regardless of whether they are at home or on-the-go.

"We have also been in direct contact with those mayors who expressed concern about B.C.'s emergency response reaction time and have communicated with regional district board chairs, local authorities and first responders, gathering their feedback. As we continue with the review, this will be incorporated into further action steps we can take to ensure public safety is protected."

Quick Facts:

* EMBC's new mobile site adapts the Emergency Info BC blog for smart phones, making it easy to navigate and accessible to any device 24 hours a day from locations with service. * It includes key information, such as evacuation orders and alerts and emergency planning tips.

Learn More:

* Follow ,,,NWS_WCATWC and ,,,EmergencyInfoBC on Twitter, or text 'follow NWS_WCATWC' and 'follow EmergencyInfoBC' to 21212 to receive SMS updates

* Get more detailed instructions on signing up for Twitter SMS alerts: http://ow.ly/f8slJ

* Visit www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca for the latest emergency information

* Set your smartphone app that manages RSS notifications to include EMBC's blog feed: http://www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca/atom.xml

BACKGROUNDER

Emergency notification process

When an earthquake occurs that results in a tsunami warning or advisory, the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Centre (WCATWC) is responsible for notifying British Columbia and Canada of the event.

This is a high-level overview of how the process works:

* Following the implementation of its service delivery change, when WCATWC detects an event, it will send an alert to a short list of priority contacts in the impacted region, including B.C.'s Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC).

* It will also post this notification to its Tsunami Alert Twitter account, ,,,NWS_WCATWC

o Anyone who has subscribed to receive SMS alerts from that Twitter account will be notified of the posting.

o This will also be re-tweeted by ,,,EmergencyInfoBC as soon as possible.

* Immediately, the ECC will send the notification to its comprehensive e-mail distribution list including key media, emergency responders and local authorities.

* The provincial regional emergency operations centres (PREOCs) then proceed to follow up with direct contact via phone to the necessary local authorities, placing the highest priority on those at highest risk.

* Local authorities have overall responsibility for notifying their residents of any risk or evacuation plans. How this is done will vary depending on the community, but can include local radio, e-mail distribution, phone trees, door-to-door visits, warning sirens, etc.

* If necessary and as updates occur, one or more notifications will be sent out through B.C.'s provincial emergency notification system (PENS) to reach local authorities, public safety agencies and key media via landline, fax or e-mail.