September 12th, 2023

Changes needed to emergency alerts as hurricane season heats up

HALIFAX – The Houston government needs to address issues with the province’s emergency alerts as Nova Scotians prepare for a potential hurricane this weekend. Following devastating floods in July that killed four people, the Premier said he would consider decentralizing how emergency alerts are sent.

According to the operating procedures for emergency alerts, obtained by the NSNDP Caucus through a Freedom of Information request, municipalities have limited power to trigger alerts.

“The floods and fires this summer were tragic and devastating for our province. In both cases, there were concerns with and delays in the emergency alerts, a system that is meant to help people stay safe,” said NDP Leader Claudia Chender. “The flooding in July was another wake-up call for our province; Nova Scotians expect their government to have learned and improved the system before another emergency. As we reach peak hurricane season there cannot be any more delays.”

Residents in rural parts of Nova Scotia are especially concerned about emergency alerts that do not always come through on limited cell and internet service. Samson Learn’s Mill Village home was flooded during the July storm in Queen’s County. With no power and limited cell coverage, he didn’t get the emergency alerts sent out for his immediate area.

“The night of July 21 and morning of July 22 were incredibly difficult. In the span of a few hours nearly six feet of water entered the basement of our home and at 3 a.m., with water still rising, we decided we had to leave before we got cut off by flooding and washed-out roads,” said Learn. “If we had received emergency alerts we likely would have evacuated sooner into town, or a comfort station, and had a safe place to wait out the storm. Instead, we slept in our car at a carpool parking lot worried the roads in either direction would be washed out and too afraid to go further. Rural residents feel abandoned in extreme weather like we’ve seen the last few months, at the very least we need reliable information earlier.”