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Communes to trial new disaster-alert system on Thursday

Over 180 communes are scheduled to test a new system for alerting the population in the event of an emergency. Credit: BE Alert

Over 180 communes are scheduled to test a new system for alerting the population in the event of an emergency on Thursday.

The new BE-Alert system has been used more than 135 times in the past two years to warn citizens of real risks. For the Home Affairs Ministry’s crisis centre, “it’s crucial for cities and communes to do regular test runs” to make sure the new tool functions optimally.

Since being launched in June 2017, the BE-Alert platform has served mostly to warn the public of situations such as serious fires, power cuts and storms.

As with other aspects of emergency planning, “it is also essential to prepare the activation of BE-Alert properly and to test it regularly,” the Crisis Centre indicated in its press release.

On Thursday, the cities and communes will take part in the exercise by sending a test message by SMS, voice mail or email to all their residents.

Some local authorities, in collaboration with the National Crisis Centre, NCCN, will send an SMS in a geo-localised manner, which means that all persons with an open GSM in the selected areas will receive a test message, even if they are not registered on the system. These specific tests will be organised by the municipalities of Schoten, Herent, Tournai, Braine-Le-Comte, Habay and Nassogne, and by the federal services with the governors of Limburg and Western Flanders.

The tests are aimed at helping the platform to evolve.  “One of the next projects is to link as many communication channels as possible to BE-Alert,” the Crisis Centre said. “Moreover, these drills are also used to raise citizens’ awareness and invite them to register at BE-Alert.”

So far, more than 627,000 addresses are registered, but “the higher the number of people registered, the more effective the warning will be in an emergency situation,” the centre explained.

The Brussels Times