Safety in the Mobile Age

The news is full of stories today about the return of residents to Fort McMurray after their forced evacuation from wildfires. Good news.

Maybe there is a lesson here for the rest of us to glean.

There have been a handful of natural disasters in Alberta the past few years grabbing headlines. Slave Lake wildfire, 2013 flooding, Fort McMurray wildfire. What about the next time?

In 2014, portions of downtown Calgary were placed in darkness due to an electrical fire. I live very close to what was then the epicentre of the problem. I still recall seeing what seemed the entirety of the Calgary Fire Department’s vehicle fleet parked, engines running and lights flashing in the pitch darkness of 5th Ave SW. The news outlets reported nothing about the situation until the next morning. It was rather disconcerting to read how Emergency Response had concerns of toxic gas from burning insulation.

And this is how we get stories of residents fleeing with barely any essentials. I went to bed the night of the electrical fire with no information. I made the mistake of assuming the news outlets would feed alert information in a timely fashion. Had the concern with toxic gas escalated, I could have very well had some person in uniform bang on my door in the middle of the night telling me to get out - NOW. Reading the news stories about Fort Mac, I have my suspicions that this is what happened to some residents.

Part of a license for radio and TV stations is the obligation for Emergency Warning broadcasts. A government authority can authorize an emergency broadcast be made public interrupting whatever is on the air at the moment. If you have heard the warning announcement tone when it has occurred, you don’t forget it. It grabs your attention. What follows would be details of the emergency and information to keep you safe.

With the powerful mobile devices we carry with us every day, we don’t always have the radio on. We can listen to music from satellite radio, other streaming services, or just one’s collection. We can watch TV stations from anywhere in the world. And these extra-territorial services are not obligated to inform you of bad things happening in your area.

So this is the mobile age where we find ourselves. Maybe something can be done to improve this disconnect? Maybe there is a way to push emergency information directly to our powerful portable handheld computers? Already done.

If you live in this glorious prairie paradise that we call the Province of Alberta there is the Alberta Emergency Alert site . Here you can sign up for alerts on other social media outlets. There is also links to download the mobile app for either Android or iOS. The downloadable apps are published by the Government of Alberta and are free to install. The apps do not have in-app purchases or other advertisements.

As you go about your busy day or enjoy relaxing time, maybe install a little piece of mind on your mobile device.

Keep your device charged. Be Safe.