NEWS

Cellphone text warning system could come to B.C.

10/30/2012 09:42 EDT | Updated 12/30/2012 05:12 EST
The B.C. government is looking at adding a cellphone-based warning system to its emergency response program to alert people to imminent dangers, such as tsunamis or severe storms.

The provincial government has been criticized for its reaction to Saturday's massive earthquake near Haida Gwaii, where it took about 40 minutes before communities received a tsunami warning.

“There's discussion going on with service providers, local authorities, Industry Canada, and looking at the feasibility and a potential pilot project,” said Chris Duffy, executive director of Emergency Management BC.”

Duffy said the process for setting up such a service is complicated, but he says the government is committed to exploring it.

A new technology in the U.S. sends natural disaster-related warnings immediately to cell phone users in the path of danger, says Ted Buehner, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Washington.

"It's just to get your attention so you're aware of the situation, can tune to other resources, and then take action to protect lives and property," Buehner told CBC News.

Cell phone providers are required to provide the service by law, which was introduced in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. B.C. needs this technology, said Carol Kulesha, mayor of Queen Charlotte City on Haida Gwaii.

"If everyone was able to use their cell phone, and that alert came out and came down over the cellphone lines, that would be fabulous," said Kulesha.

There are many areas of B.C. with little or no cell service, but most of the population lives in areas where service is available. Kulesha said a better system of some kind needs to be in place before the next big quake occurs.

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