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Prince Edward Island

Communication lacking on 911 outage, says Green MLA

Prince Edward Island’s government needs to better inform islanders what’s going on than it did Monday when there were problems with 911 calls, Green MLA Lynne Lund says.

Access to 911 from landlines was disrupted for several hours Monday from about 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m

Interim Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) coordinator Tanya Mullally said it was just after 8 a.m. when she was briefed, and a press release along with messages on social media was sent out about half an hour later.

PEI’s response differed from that in Nova Scotia, where a message was sent to all mobile phones using the Alert Ready system and a press conference was held to answer questions.

Lynn Lund, indoors
“We are missing large parts of the population,” says Lynne Lund. (CBC)

Just using social media, Lund said, isn’t enough.

“Very few people are on social media all the time. Anyone who was at work wouldn’t have seen that notice, a lot of seniors wouldn’t have seen that notice, anyone getting groceries probably wouldn’t have seen it,” she said.

“We are missing large parts of the population.”

Within minutes of learning of the outage, Mullally said she met with police and fire chiefs to determine what the best course of action was.

Tanya Mullally, inside
Tanya Mullally says emergency management officials had a discussion about whether to use the Alert Ready system. (CBC)

“We had a conversation. We said, ‘Is this an Alert Ready issue?’ and based on the conversation, with the information our 911 coordinator had, we decided at the time it wasn’t necessary,” she said.

911 calls actually came in on cell phones, and that was part of what went into the decision, Mullally said.

“We also had some confidence that this mechanism was working,” she said.

The answer is checked

Lund would have liked to see the PEI government react more similarly to the Nova Scotia government.

“In an emergency, when people are panicking, it’s not acceptable to call 911 and get nowhere,” she said.

“The Nova Scotia government came out quickly. They had a big press conference. They talked about how important this was. They made sure people were informed and they were ready to answer questions.”

PEI has specific criteria for using the Alert Ready system, Mullally said, and this outage didn’t suit them.

“I would hate to say that we would do it any differently. I think we made the right decision based on the information we had at the time,” she said.

“The next time it happens again, we may have different information and we may make different decisions. So we always make that decision based on what we have and that’s the best we can do with it.”

She noted that New Brunswick also chose not to use Alert Ready. Mullally said she and others at EMO will review the event, including consulting with colleagues in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick why they made their decision, and possibly revising alert-ready protocols as a result.

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