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M.D. council adds new communications policy

Posted on August 6, 2015 by Vauxhall Advance

By J.W. Schnarr
Vauxhall Advance
jwschnarr@tabertimes.com

The Municipal District of Taber has passed a new policy to help keep local residents feel informed of the latest news, changes, and emergencies within the M.D.

Dubbed “Safe and Sound,” the communications policy is designed to provide a structure for administration and council with regards to keeping local residents informed in the municipality and on decisions by council.

Municipal Administrator Derrick Krizsan said currently, the M.D. has no communication policy. He said it is expected future versions of the MGA could include guidelines on citizen engagement.

“The objectives of the policy are to inform citizens of the operations of the municipal government’s operations, programs, services, facilities, council policy decisions, and all other matters that would serve a purpose designed to engage and inform citizens of the municipal district,” he said.

The policy is split into two portions, with one involving emergency contact and the other involving non-emergency contact with local residents.

“We’re calling the policy ‘Safe and Sound,’” said Krizsan, noting the “Safe” portion would involve emergency communication, while the “Sound” portion would involve non-emergency communications.

“It would keep the citizens informed about what we’re doing, and why,” he said. “(Safe and Sound) is kind of the catchphrase.”

The Safe portion of the policy will utilize Twitter as a means for the M.D. to contact residents for up-to-the-minute changes and announcements regarding emergencies. The Twitter account will act as a live feed, allowing for informed decisions based on the most current information.

The Sound portion of the policy will include regular non-emergency communication such as road bans, road and infrastructure updates, maintenance and road closures, planning and development issues (such as public hearings), approved development permits, land-use change applications, planning initiatives, and subdivision and development appeals. Other information will include recreation and cultural events, plans, and programs.

The policy will make use of a number of media vehicles, including:

printed newsletters, municipal website, flyers and special notices, provincial communication tools (Alberta Emergency Alert), newspaper advertising, newspaper interviews and articles featuring municipal business, websites of associated organizations, general meetings (AGMs), public hearings, development hearings, special hearings and open houses, social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and Email.

Reeve Brian Brewin said the M.D. has learned through previous emergencies about the importance of social media in regards to quickly spreading the word when something happens.

“It seems to be the generation now,” said Brewin. “That seemed to be the number one area where people were getting their information from (in the event of a local emergency).”

“That’s part of our communication strategy for our municipal emergency plan,” said Krizsan. “It’s using those tools primarily to keep local residents informed.”

Following discussion, council accepted the policy as written.

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