Canada could benefit from a better emergency response system

July 17th, 2014 by admin

Severe weather in Canada is on the rise, but if you were to compare Canadian and American preparedness for emergencies, especially natural disasters, you may be surprised.

While the United States has a nation-wide network alerting its citizens to natural and man-made disasters, Canadians have no equivalent system. Alberta is the only province that has an emergency alert system. The Canadian Red Cross considered the problem serious enough to issue a warning last May to Canadians about the country's lack of preparedness for emergency situations. 

Developed to meet modern communication habits, the American emergency system sends alerts through multiple communication channels and platforms, including sirens, TV and radio interventions both on wired as well as wireless systems, satellite broadcasts, tweets and texts. While the official purpose of the system is to give the U.S. President "the communications capability to address the American public in a national emergency," it is also used on a local level to provide alerts about severe weather, among other things.

Well integrated, the U.S. emergency network is a voluntary service that almost all communications providers take part in. Mobile phone providers target their users according to the nearest tower the phone is being used instead of the phone's home base, meaning if you were traveling in an area where severe weather would soon hit, you would receive a text alert.

Why Canada has not established a similar system is mostly due to complacency, asserts Colin Kenny, former chairman of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, in an article for Huffington Post Canada.  

CBC News quoted an Environment Canada official recently who said that the agency was hoping to implement a cell phone alert system "in a couple of years."  Similarly, in the past, the CRTC set deadlines for the Canadian broadcast industry to distribute emergency alerts only to renege on them. Now the CRTC has suggested another deadline for the broadcast industry for the end of this year. However, with weak government funding, these emergency systems would still not match the quality of the U.S.' system, which has largely been enabled through generous federal funding.   

If you have questions about how you can prepare your home for an emergency, such as severe weather, contact Fundy Mutual. To find out more about emergency response in your province, visit the Canadian Red Cross website