Here is what happened when someone in a probably tsunami impact zone received a warning from the authorities in British Columbia, Canada, a few days back:
Meg Devlin, who lives near Victoria’s Gorge waterfront, said she was awakened by a message at 3:02 but didn’t recognize the phone number for Victoria’s Vic-Alert emergency notification service, so she ignored it.
“I unplugged my phone and rolled over and went back to sleep,” Devlin told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.
There is no way for anyone to recognize the “official” nature of a number sending a text in the middle of the night. The CBC News story goes on to talk a significant number of people in the probable impact zone who received the warning not through official channels, but through friends and people knocking on doors.
Tanya Patterson, the City of Victoria’s emergency program coordinator, said the Vic-Alert system is one area for improvement in the city’s emergency response.
The tsunami alerts were specifically targeted to subscribers in neighbourhoods with coastal exposure.
But the 6,400 subscribers can’t program their phones to ring through with a Vic-Alert text or voice message if their phone’s turned off, because they are sent out from multiple phone numbers.
Patterson said Canadian telecom regulations prohibit push alerts like the ones used in Hawaii where every cellphone in an at-risk area receives alerts for a potential tsunami — or incoming missiles. She said discussions are underway to try to change that.
Time to implement cell broadcasting, British Columbia. I know, contrary to the program coordinator quoted above, that Canada had approved cell broadcasting earlier in 2017.