Good morning. Wendy Cox in Vancouver today.

At one point last month, more than 500 homes were on evacuation order as the Keremeos wildfire swept through an area in British Columbia’s Okanagan.

None of those people received the warning to get out via Alert Ready, Canada’s direct-to-cellphone alerting system designed specifically to warn the public of natural disasters.

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In neighboring Alberta, 10 wildfire messages were issued through Alert Ready last year and two already this year.

Apparently, British Columbia is not an early adopter.

The province came under heavy criticism last year after The Globe’s Colin Freeze reported that despite last summer’s deadly heat wave and wildfires, followed by last November’s even deadlier flooding, British Columbia had never deployed the system.

The system can broadcast pop-up warnings and blaring alarms to all cellphones in a specific area.

In response, provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth promised earlier this year the system would be available in time for this summer’s forest fire season. It was.

The system has been used four times this year for matters other than natural disasters. One alert involved a missing child, and the three others were related to a gunman who shot four people, two of them fatally, in Langley in late July.

But no authority has moved to issue an alert for forest fire evacuations, despite the hundreds of people that have been forced to flee their homes. The province has had a relatively mild wildfire season.

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Colin writes in a story today that Emergency Management B.C. spokesman Octavian Lacatusu said that new protocols rely on local governments to ask for alerts, but the agency has not received any so far this year.

“The development of alerting protocols in British Columbia comes with complexity,” Mr. Lacatusu told him.

The Alert Ready system was launched nationally more than a decade ago, and its direct-to-cellphone capabilities were added in 2018. But there are no shared standards for its deployment, and provinces have embraced it to varying degrees.

For years the B.C. government kept the system in reserve for potential warnings about tsunamis. It’s unclear why.

For fires or floods or other disasters, local governments and First Nations were encouraged to come up with their own public alerting systems, including by buying commercial software to warn their populations about fires and floods.

Such systems usually require residents to download apps or subscribe to text messaging services, which can leave out commuters, vacationers and of course residents who don’t sign up.

But still, the comfort level with local systems seems to have outstripped the desire to try something new. Sean Vaisler, the emergency services manager in Okanagan-Similkameen, said EMBC has clearly communicated Alert Ready’s capabilities.

But his region has its own mass notification system, which it has used along with police services and social media to distribute information about evacuation orders.

As well, there remain many pockets in British Columbia not covered by cell service. That was a factor in the reluctance to use Alert Ready, Mr. Vaisler said.

Policy patchwork surrounding the technology is only starting to be addressed nationally. An ongoing public inquiry in Nova Scotia is probing why police officers were completely unfamiliar with Alert Ready in 2020, when a gunman killed 22 people in an overnight rampage in the province.

Colin obtained EMBC records under freedom of information laws show staff prepared a draft last year of a potential alert for a wildfire in Lytton in the event of an evacuation order, but the Alert Ready message was never sent because it was not policy at the time.

“I have created a template just in case we need to issue a [broadcast intrusive] alert for an evacuation order for the Lytton area,” wrote civil servant Beverly Duthie.

“I think we would have to consider very carefully the use of such a BI alert without prior briefing and approval,” replied operations manager Brendan Ralfs. He added: “I appreciate that you have proactively developed the template but please do not use it.”

The e-mails were exchanged on June 17, 2021, when EMBC was monitoring a wildfire threat to Lytton. That threat faded, but a wildfire ripped through the community on June 30, destroying most of the town and killing two people.

This is the weekly Western Canada newsletter written by B.C. Editor Wendy Cox and Alberta Bureau Chief James Keller. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for it and all Globe newsletters here.