It’s been a Manitoba summer that will go down in history with a rain event that threatened to tear out Rivers dam and near Virden, a fatal tornado. These events bring into focus the importance of an early warning system that is new to the area.
Westman Emergency Group (WEG) serves Virden and the RM of Wallace-Woodsworth. To protect the public, WEG coordinators Marc Savy and Matthew Hipwell want people to know that an early warning system is in place to notify residents of the area if there is a severe weather event or some other kind of emergency.
All-Net Connect is a communication service that provides these Alert Ready emergency warnings. This works with WEG to send out weather warnings and other emergency alerts to everyone in the area who is in their system.
Marc Savy pointed out that the system is only effective for those who have signed up and not everyone has. “We hope more folks sign up,” he said.
Alert Ready was developed by the same company that many municipalities in Canada, including Virden and the neighbouring Rural Municipality of Wallace-Woodworth, use as a platform for council information and communication.
All-Net company president Vern Sabeski, explained how Alert Ready is integrated with the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination (NAAD) System.
“It's very unique for Canada. About five years ago Canada decided to build a national alert system to connect all the provinces. It’s now been branded as Alert Ready.”
Mainstream media in Canada (radio / television) are integrated into the system, so an emergency warning would interrupt a cable or satellite tv program.
However, as All-Net was developing a mass communication system (for municipalities), Sabeski said, “We saw that there was going to be a hole in rural Canada.” Some people don’t have very good cell service or don’t have mobile phones. They won’t be receiving these alerts.
“So, we decided that if we’re developing this, let’s develop it in a way that integrates with (Canada’s Alert Ready) and makes landline phones ring.”
All-Net Connect loads contacts from the local phone book where a high percentage of residents still have landlines. But those with cell phones need to register with All-Net Connect to receive warning alerts that ring the phone.
The system went live locally in early June. Now, when you open the Town of Virden website, on the home page you will see an invitation: “Stay connected with us” and an active link to sign up for the system. The RM of Wallace-Woodworth has a similar link.
For those who sign up, the WEG administrators have discretion to send a text or email “watch” to advise if there is a weather event such as a severe thunderstorm coming to the area, but you will receive a voice call if there’s imminent danger.
The WEG coordinators don’t have to be available to get the warning out to people. “All-Net pushes all the alerts to all the administrators on the system via text to our phones,” says Savy. “If it’s the quiet hours it automatically gets sent out as a voice call alert.”
When you sign up with your municipality, each municipal office can also send out general information. If there’s a watermain break or an interruption in garbage pick-up, All-Net Connect will let you know. You can even stay in the loop for recreation events. Tick off whether you want a phone call, email or text.
This information was sent out in Virden’s water bill. Now, there is help and Jill Wolfe in the town office will help you get set up.
Other municipalities including Pipestone, Prairie View and Sifton also use this service.