Muskoka residents now have a new way to be notified of emergencies happening around them.
The District Municipality of Muskoka in partnership with all six lower-tier municipalities, two First Nation communities, and the Muskoka Emergency Response Committee (MERC) have implemented a public emergency notification system for this area.
The system works via text, email, phone notification or social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter. It is available to all year-round and seasonal residents in Muskoka free of charge and can be narrowed down by the user to a specific area of interest and/or geographical area.
MERC is made up of Community Emergency Management Coordinator (CEMC) representatives from each of Muskoka’s six lower-tier municipalities, First Nations, area OPP detachment commanders, and the District emergency management (EM) staff.
“MERC members work to support integrated municipal emergency response across Muskoka, ensuring effective deployment of resources in the protection of health, safety, environment, welfare and property of the residents and visitors of Muskoka,” notes a report compiled for the District health services committee by chief of paramedic services and emergency planning Jeff McWilliam.
According to McWilliam, a method for communicating emergencies both internally and to the public was identified as an area requiring attention and in late 2020 a subcommittee under MERC was created to investigate the platforms available.
“One requirement of the prospective emergency notification system was that it meets the needs of each respective area, as a joint initiative, and assists in bridging the gap of internal and cross-municipal emergency communications,” stated McWilliam.
McWilliam noted that the subcommittee had explored four vendors and selected Voyent Alert! as the vendor of choice.
“Voyent Alert! templates and administrator platforms are the same for all Muskoka administrators, therefore all EM staff are familiar with how to populate and upload a notification,” he added.
“An annual service fee of $4,000 per year includes eight (8) administrators across Muskoka, and unlimited subscribers, training, and notifications. The Township of Muskoka Lakes has covered the costs associated with the first year of operation, in 2020, for all Area Municipalities, First Nations and the District. The next renewal fee is due before the end of the year,” stated McWilliam, also noting that the cost for 2021 was approved as part of the 2021 tax supported budget under emergency management.
Mike Vadlja, fire prevention officer with the Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department, spoke about the initiative to Huntsville council at its June 28 meeting. He said registration is easy.
He said he’s working on setting up notification templates in order to push out advisories for issues like rising waters in the Big East River.
“Definitely if you get a chance download the app and register yourself and that way you can receive notifications,” he told Huntsville council.
More information and registration for Voyent Alert! can be accessed through the District of Muskoka’s website here.
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