A new system called ‘Alert Ready’ is being used by the OPP in the Kingston region in an effort to keep residents safe.
Television screens in the Kingston-area flashed a warning Thursday night to alert the public about a police situation in Millhaven, advising people to ‘shelter-in-place.’
It is not the first time the region has seen this type of community alert, which is different from an Amber Alert.
“Alert Ready is a system to advise people when there is an imminent threat of danger in their own community,” says Bill Dickson, a spokesperson for OPP East region, “unlike an Amber Alert … Amber Alerts are province-wide.”
Since July the alert system has been successfully used four times in the province — three of those incidents occurred in Eastern Ontario.
The first alert happened in Carleton Place near Ottawa, where police were hunting for an alleged murder suspect.
“There was a dual purpose that ended up being served,” Dickson says. “Here, people were alerted to this individual in their community … and as a result of that, we did receive tips that did help lead to the arrest of the individual.”
Dickson clarified that receiving tips based on the alert was a plus, but not at all the intention of the alert system.
In Kaladar on Nov. 12, the OPP issued a warning for what they described as a dangerous armed person following a traffic accident.
Earlier this week, many residents received an emergency message on their cell phones — it was a test.
Then on Thursday night, the system was used to get the word out about an emergency situation in the Town of Millhaven.
Police were searching for a man considered armed and dangerous following a domestic dispute.
In both the Kaladar and Millhaven incidents, the police issued a shelter-in-place order.
“We want to make sure that people know not to go outside their homes,” says Dickson, “not to answer the door at that time, because there could be someone dangerous in their neighbourhood… and could be potentially coming towards their home.”
Like an Amber Alert, there are strict criteria for any police force to send an Alert Ready bulletin.
“As a municipal police service, there are four things we are looking for,” says Sgt. Steve Koopman with Kingston police. “Number one, is it urgent? Number 2, is it severe? “Number 3, is it certain? … meaning is it confirmed and on-going by police? And number 4, we have to make sure it not isolated or contained.”
Alert Ready notifications can also be sent by emergency management officials, warning of severe weather, where there is an imminent threat to life.