Could there be an app for that?

Activist Sandra Kinart - seen here on the right at a recent Idle No More Protest - wants industry to create a phone app to warn of chemical releases.

Activist Sandra Kinart – seen here on the right at a recent Idle No More Protest – wants industry to create a phone app to warn of chemical releases.

Activist want emergency notification for smart phones

Two local activists say technology could be the fix for Sarnia’s broken emergency warning system.

Ada Lockridge and Sandra Kinart met with Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley and St. Clair Mayor Steve Arnold recently to start a conversation on what could be done to change the system.

On Jan. 10, Shell Canada had a mercaptan release. Emergency warning sirens didn’t sound until an hour after the company issued an order for residents to stay in their homes. Aamjiwnaang First Nation has recorded 33 people who were ill because of the leak.

“The system is flawed in so many ways,” says Kinart. “We have to do something about this.”

Lockridge agrees. “There has to be another way of notifying the neighbours.”

Kinart believes the key could be technology. She wants local industry to create “the gold standard” of emergency warning systems by creating a phone app to keep residents informed. Kinart says it is clear social media and smart phones have changed the way people communicate.

“Within 24 hours, Idle No More was heard around the world. If we can do that with social media, why the heck can’t we do that with a release,” she says. “We don’t have to go around the world; we have to go to the community.”

Bradley says industry and emergency responders have been talking about how to use technology better during an emergency but he says there are a lot of hurdles to clear, including who controls the flow of information. “The more communication vehicles you have the more difficult it is,” says Bradley. Mayor Arnold agrees saying it isn’t something that should be rushed into. “The last thing you want is one more tool that is missing the mark.”

Kinart understands it isn’t going to happen overnight. “I know it’s not a five minute fix, but we have to move forward…and use the people in the community who have the knowledge,” says Kinart.

Arnold says a committee of CAER has been set up to study the emergency alerting system and the idea will be discussed. But he makes it clear that public awareness remains the key to a good system.

“In the general, my overall sense is the system is pretty good but people have to understand the system,” he says. Arnold says CAER has been advertising and producing flyers for homes in the area to keep people informed. “There are a lot of efforts underway to make sure we are being effective…if there is something else that we can look at…let’s look at it, but let’s make sure it works.”

– Heather Wright

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