Warning system will be upgraded

If a disaster was to happen in Fort Frances, how quickly would the public be alerted?
George Wood brought this issue up at the July 13 town council meeting.
“I’ve been quite concerned about the emergency broadcast system currently in use at the radio station,” he said.
Prior to picking up the “Good Time Oldies” satellite feed, which the station now broadcasts Monday to Friday from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. (and 1:15 p.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday), CFOB had a live broadcaster on the air until midnight–and someone at the station until the morning shift came in around 5 a.m.
Any emergency could be called in to the station and be almost immediately broadcast to the public.
Under the present system, if an emergency situation arose after 8 p.m., the Fort Frances Fire Department would set off the siren and then contact a designated CFOB employee at home.
That employee then would have to rush to the station and get on the air to announce the nature of the emergency.
The problem is the public would not know the nature of the emergency until perhaps 10 or 15 minutes after the fact. And with certain disasters, such as a chlorine leak from the Abitibi-Consolidated mill, the delay could prove deadly.
But CFOB station manager Hugh Syrja said the situation will soon change.
“We are currently in the process of getting a piece of equipment we can install that will allow our [designated] employee to interrupt the station signal by phone, saving valuable time,” he noted.
“We have been working with the mill’s emergency team and the [Municipal Control Group] to streamline emergency procedures after both groups expressed their concern over any time lag in an emergency situation,” he added.
Further changes also may be made down the road.
“What I presented to the council was that Chief Ralph Fulford had done an investigation and found that for $2,500, the fire department could get a separate system with a transmitter that would have its own signal,” noted Wood.
With this system, people would be able to tune into a radio signal specifically for broadcasting emergency information.
Wood said council has referred the new system to the 1999 budget discussions.
Chief Fulford was unavailable for comment.