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District of Houston alert system usage increases


A good number of local residents have signed up for a digital alert system used by the District of Houston.

And one councillor thinks last summer’s Peacock Creek fire had everything to do with more people now having the Voyent Alert system on their smartphones.

Speaking at the May 21 District of Houston council meeting, Jonathan van Barneveld noted that the number of Voyent users jumped from 230 in March 2023 to 603 as of this March, a 260 per cent increase.

“In March 2023 there were 230 people signed up, which was prior to the Peacock Creek fire and then March 2024, a year since the Peacock Creek fire, we have 603 people signed up,” he said.

The councillor called the fire a “good public kick in the butt” to sign up to Voyent. It gives the District the capability for mass communication of vital and timely information.

“We’re reaching people in a time of need. People are looking to us in some way. Just kind of nice,” van Barneveld added.

The Voyent user numbers were contained in a January to March 2024 quarterly operational report submitted to council.

Emergency incidents dip

Incidents requiring attendance by the Houston Volunteer Fire Department declined for the first four months of this year compared to January to April 2024.

As of the end of April 2023, there were 105 incidents and 91 to the end of April this year.

But although there was a decline in incidents, there was an increase in the number of hours spent by members in responding.

For the first four months of 2023, 648 hours were spent as a result of call outs, less than the 738 hours for January to April this year.

Visitor numbers increase

Visitor numbers recorded through the Houston and District Chamber of Commerce’s visitor info centre have been inching up over the past several years.

While there were 428 visitors for the first quarter of 2022, the number grew to 446 for the same period in 2023 and rose again to 508 for the first quarter of this year.

As the number of visitors has increased, so have the number of parties checking in at the info centre.

There were 341 parties in the first three months of 2022, 362 parties over the first three months of 2023 and 508 parties from January to March of this year.

Community showcased

Mayor Shane Brienen said he was pleased with the reactions of delegates to the North Central Local Government Association convention who toured Houston and area May 13.

Held in Smithers, the convention set up several opportunities to showcase the area, including a tour of civic facilities in Houston, highlighting the rehabilitiation of 9th and 10th in the downtown core and recreation at Silverthorne Lake.

Brienen said he saw favourable comments posted on social media from those on the tour.

“I think it was a great move for the community to showcase some of the great stuff we have,” he said.

The District of Houston shared co-sponsoring of the convention with the Town of Smithers and the Bulkley-Nechako regional district.

Award appreciated

Brienen said he also appreciated receiving a lifetime achievement award from the North Central Local Government Association for his work in civic politics.

The award was presented at the association’s convention held in Smithers.

“I think out staff put something in for that and I was totally surprised,” he said of the award. “I was looking around the room for someone else to have it.”

About the Author: Rod Link

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