New emergency warning system goes live May 9

Slow or missed emergency warnings that have long bedeviled Sarnia may soon be a thing of the past.

A new and free service is available that can immediately notify you of tornadoes, evacuation orders and other serious emergencies. The official unveiling is May 9, but more than 1,000 residents have already signed up for My Community Notification Network, or MyCNN.

“The world communicates in a different way, and we needed a better way to disseminate information,” said Dean Edwardson, general manager of Community Awareness Emergency Response.

The network follows decades of complaints about poor public notification in emergencies, especially chemical releases to the air and water by local industry.

Now, government and industry officials can quickly contact subscribers with accurate information about breaking events via cell phones, land lines, email and text messages.

Initially, subscribers in the Sarnia area will get message about tornadoes, boil water advisories, evacuations and shelter-in-place orders.

As the system is developed, residents will also be able to receive alerts about floods, road closures, transit disruptions, and, eventually, school closures.

“The old systems weren’t fast enough,” said Cal Gardner, Sarnia’s Emergency Management Coordinator. “Now, everyone gets the same message at the same time.”

MyCNN isn’t replacing existing systems, such as warning sirens and media alerts. But it will delivery key information to a busy and mobile community, officials said.

The home telephone numbers of 30,000 people listed in the white pages of the phone book have already been entered, and the system can handle up to 80,000 registered people. When signing up you can choose the level and method of notification.

The network is a joint effort of CAER, Sarnia, St. Clair Township, Point Edward, Lambton County and local industry.

To register, go to the website of participating municipalities or CAER, at www.caer.ca and click on the MyCNN icon.

The system, which was used in Boston during last year’s marathon bombing, goes live on May 9 at the Clearwater Arena during Emergency Preparedness Day, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

– George Mathewson