After a large earthquake sounded tsunami alarms around the Gulf of Alaska in January, communities put their emergency plans and equipment to the test, and some communities found shortcomings.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Department of Emergency Management had issues with its emergency notification system, Rapid Notify, which calls landlines and subscribed cell phones with automated messages.
Dan Nelson is the head of the department. He said some Kenai Peninsula residents never received a call, or received it hours after the tsunami warning was no longer in effect.
“The system couldn’t handle the amount of calls we were asking it to do, and in the time since we implemented that system, more of the mobile technologies, social media and texting have come into play,” Nelson explained. “KPB alerts now sends phone calls as we used to do, but will also alert residents of emergencies via text message, Facebook and Twitter.”
The department announced that it began using KPB Alerts Monday. Emergency messages will post on the borough’s emergency alert accounts, also named KPB Alerts, on Facebook and Twitter.
The system will also likely be linked to the borough’s regular social media accounts. All landlines will still automatically receive automated messages through KPB alerts, and cell phones will still need to be registered with the borough in order to receive calls and now text messages – something that was never implemented with Rapid Notify.
Nelson adds that the new system will also allow the borough to target specific areas on the peninsula.
“Now every phone is actually associated with a physical address, and everything is based on geography when we do alerts. So, it lets us be much more refined,” he said.
Nelson said residents who signed up for the old system should still receive emergency messages through KPB Alerts, but he suggests that residents make sure their address and the phone numbers associated with it are up to date.
Nelson said the department has tested the new system internally. He said there will likely be a system-wide test sometime this summer.