Alert system in South Okanagan regional district getting replaced | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Alert system in South Okanagan regional district getting replaced

August 22, 2021 - 8:40 AM

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen had to find a new mass notification system after Civic Ready called it quits in Canada.

Civic Ready – the service responsible for sending texts, emails and robocalls to the public about local matters ranging from a change in garbage day to a planned power outage or an evacuation order – is no longer going to be the the regional district’s mass notification system once their contract expires at the end of November.

In December, the 5,000 constituents currently subscribed to Civic Ready will notice their subscriptions automatically get switched to Voyent Alert!, a similar notification system. Voyent Alert! will cost $18,000 annually, though any municipalities that want to partner with the regional district will be subject to an additional cost yet to be determined. The cost of transitioning will be minimal.

For the fixed rate of $18,000 per year Voyent Alert! will deliver unlimited messages, whereas a less competitive "comparable company” required a fee of four cents per message, according to a regional district administrative report from Aug. 5.

At a rate of four cents per message every time one of the more than 5,000 residents needed an alert, the comparable company would only be cheaper if less than 90 alerts needed to sent to each user over the course of a year. That doesn't account for residents who choose to get notified by two or all three – call, text, and email – and would double or triple the rates.

READ MORE: Regional district holding their own as they work through network issues

In addition to the price tag, other companies offering similar services offered less functionality, regional district communications co-ordinator Erick Thompson said in an email.

The benefits of Voyent Alert!, Thompson said, is the intuitive and user friendly software, as well as its advanced geofencing technology.

“Advanced geofencing provides the ability to send targeted messaging to ensure messaged received by recipients are relevant to them,” he said.

If an emergency alert needs to be shared in one area of a regional district, geofencing technology allows anybody physically in that area to get the message – even if those people are subscribed in other jurisdictions. As long as users have the location services turned on their mobile device, they will be able to receive emergency messages while visiting other regions.

When asked why regional district needs to contract this out, rather than just grabbing everyone's email, categorize accordingly, and have RDOS staffers deliver the updates – Thompson said mass notification services have the ability to reach residents simultaneously in a variety of ways, which is especially important for those living in rural areas with limited or no internet connectivity.

Andrea Rendall, also with regional district communications, said it’s too soon to know if there are any problems with Voyent Alert!, as it hasn’t been rolled out yet. But she has been in contact with staff from other regional districts that have already adopted Voyent Alert! and said it works “much better” than Civic Ready, which the RDOS has used since 2018.

Those already subscribed will be sent reminder messages closer to launch. Users are still encouraged to log into their accounts to check that their primary address and telephone number is included in their profile.

READ MORE: Meet your RDOS board of directors

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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