Metro Vancouver residents were jolted twice from bed Monday morning after RCMP sent out the second-ever public safety emergency alert in B.C. history.
The direct-to-cellphone emergency alert was sent out just before 6:20 a.m., after multiple shootings in Langley, B.C. left three men dead and one woman injured, to warn the public to stay alert and remain out of the area.
Officials later sent out a second alert at 7:20 a.m. saying the suspect was “no longer a threat” and a third after 3:30 p.m. to inform the public it was safe to resume regular activities in the area.
Alert Ready is a system available across Canada that allows government officials to issue public safety alerts through television and radio broadcasters, as well as compatible wireless devices.
On Monday, police confirmed it was the second time that a public safety alert had been used in B.C. during an active shooter scenario since the technology became available three years ago.
The first time the emergency alert system was used in B.C. was during a shooting in Vanderhoof, B.C., about 100 kilometres west of Prince George, in November 2021.
Why wasn’t it used during other recent shootings?
Whistler, B.C. resident Andrew Evans took to social media after being woken up by the alert Monday morning, wondering why a similar alert wasn’t also used Sunday during a shooting in Whistler Village that killed two men.
“Just a bit more official word perhaps would have been a bit nice,” Evans said.
Police say strict criteria must be followed for an alert to be issued.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Ghalib Bhayani says the system is only used when an active threat poses a risk to the public, it is unpredictable and evolving, and when sufficient information is known about the threat.
“The incident in Whistler was very, very quick. It was a very short period of time, and it was isolated in the sense that it was targeted,” he said.
Nearly a month ago, six police officers were injured and two suspects died in an armed robbery at a bank in Saanich, B.C.
According to Saanich police, an alert was not sent out because the incident also didn’t meet the criteria.
The province has been criticised in the past for its lack of use of the system, especially in emergency situations like 2021’s heat wave and flooding disaster.
Issues with the alert