Kamloops has yet to sign up for app that alerts residents during wildfire evacuations | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops has yet to sign up for app that alerts residents during wildfire evacuations

The Juniper wildfire in Kamloops, Thursday, July 1, 2021.
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July 06, 2021 - 11:10 AM

Since the wildfire last Thursday that threatened Juniper Ridge in Kamloops, tensions have been high in that neighbourhood and many residents would like to see improvements to the emergency exit routes.

When lightning struck near the neighbourhood, some residents were notified of the wildfire by their neighbours honking their horns and seeing vehicles heading out the area, while the City of Kamloops sent emailed updates, published updates on its website and sent RCMP officers to notify residents of the evacuation.

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District has been using a more direct and simpler way to notify rural residents with the Voyent Alert app and the city could opt into the system that is already in place with the regional district.

Voyent Alert registration has jumped from 2,000 to 11,000 in a matter of days, since the Sparks Lake and Durand Lake wildfires have spread rapidly through the region, according to Debbie Sells, regional district corporate service director.

But not all municipalities in the region have joined into the program. A notable exception being Ashcroft.

MLA Todd Stone, in a joint letter with MLA Peter Milobar, urged Kamloops mayor and council to add the app to its emergency operations response.

READ MORE: Thousands sign petition to improve evacuation routes from Kamloops neighbourhood threatened by wildfire

Juniper resident Deanna Bell is thankful that she was away camping when the fire struck, but when she'd heard the news on the night of July 1, she was anxious knowing her home, food truck and her cat were at risk.

While she was notified by neighbours and local media, if a wildfire strikes again and she's home, she's not sure how she'll be updated.

"I guess I would be relying on the people around me," she said.

Bell now has her emergency kit ready in case another fire encroaches the Juniper subdivision.

The Voyent Alert app will override notification settings on a smartphone to alert a resident of emergencies that could affect their property, based on the address they've entered.

Sells also said that in rural areas that have poor cell phone reception, users can opt for phone call, voice message or text message notifications.

Anyone can register for the app and district-wide notifications will be distributed throughout the Thompson-Nicola, but only rural residents and those within municipalities that have opted in will get an emergency alert.

There is a cost to the governing body which registers with the app, as well as a cost from Voyent Alert each time it is used, Sells said.

Neither the City of Kamloops chief administrative officer nor the mayor were immediately available to answer questions like whether or not the city has discussed opting into the alert program.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 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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