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Delays in alert system increased impact of West Hants flooding

By Evan Taylor May 15, 2024 | 11:24 AM

One of the main bridges in Brooklyn, NS was washed out by the July flooding. Photo: Evan Taylor

A new report from the West Hants Emergency Management office revealed that emergency alerts related to last summer’s flooding were delayed almost three hours.

In West Hants the flooding was deadly, claiming the lives of three children and one adult last year.

It started the morning of July 22, with the first calls coming into local fire departments around 12:25 a.m. alerting them to local flash flooding.

Following that the the deputy chief of the Brooklyn Fire Department used a radio to 911 dispatch to get the RCMP to issue an alert, and the fire chief also texted the West Hants emergency management co-ordinator to request help with an alert.

Those messages weren’t received until nearly two hours later, wasting critical time when water was rising.

The alerts went out shortly after advising people to shelter in place. They were sent via the alert system and received through various devices including televisions, texts and radio broadcasts.

However, the report found that in some cases only cellphones connected to LTE networks were able to receive the alerts, and in some cases, they came in the wrong order adding to the confusion.

Lessons learned

In response to the report, the municipality has purchased satellite telephones and advanced two-way radios to deal with future cellphone outages.

They have also created alert templates so during future emergencies they are better prepared to get information out in a timely manner.