British Columbia to send emergency text alerts to warn of heat waves

British Columbians will first receive a heat warning that temperatures are rising. If this persists, a program will be broadcast by SMS, radio and television.

Nearly a year after a deadly heat wave killed nearly 600 people in British Columbia, the provincial government has unveiled a new plan to prepare for and warn of the onset of extreme heat.

As part of a new BC Heat Alert and Response System (Hars), a provincial panel of experts will assess weather projections in several areas of the province, issuing warnings through a heat alert system. two-level heat.

“After last year’s event, it’s clear that we need to carefully review our response to extreme heat events and take steps to ensure we are prepared for more such events in the future. ‘future,’ Emergency Preparedness Minister Mike Farnworth said Monday.

The new system begins with a heat warning that will indicate that temperatures are rising and are expected to exceed regional thresholds for daytime and nighttime minimum temperatures.

Throughout British Columbia, the regional temperature thresholds are:

  • Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island: daytime high 29C, nighttime low 16C
  • Fraser Valley: daytime high 33C, nighttime low 17C
  • Southeast (including South Okanagan): 35C daytime high, 18C nighttime low
  • Northeast: daytime high 29 C, night low 14 C
  • Northwest: daytime high 28°C, nighttime low 13°C

Once these temperature thresholds are reached and are expected to rise over a three-day period, a newly formed BC Heat Committee will issue the call to send an Emergency Broadcast Alert through the National Preparedness System. to text alerts, radio and television. This is different from flood or forest fire warnings, which are currently issued at the municipal or regional level.

Heat warnings are expected to occur up to three times per summer, while extreme heat emergencies are expected to hit the province once or twice per decade.

“It’s not the silver bullet in itself,” Farnworth said, noting that news media and door-to-door warnings would help bolster the warning system.

But the way it’s playing out on the ground makes experts like Ryan Reynolds reluctant to fully endorse the province’s latest moves.

A researcher and technologist who pioneered disaster preparedness apps at the University of British Columbia, Reynolds says too much reliance on technology can quickly exclude large parts of the population.

“It’s great for 30-40 year olds who have their phone in their pocket. But not necessarily for people like my parents,” he said of the SMS alert system. “We need other things to fill in the gaps.”

Reynolds said the province’s plan to offer guidance on how to plan ahead is a big and important step forward, but a lot will depend on how consistent those messages are across municipalities.

“They try to do as many things as they can. The problem with that is that smaller things can slip through the cracks,” he said. “The proof is going to be seeing that in play.”

More soon.

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