Spill Notification System Alerts Coastal First Nations to Marine Emergencies

For Immediate Release

Victoria – A new system is alerting coastal First Nations in British Columbia when oil and other hazardous chemicals are spilled within their lands and waters. The new system ensures that First Nation communities and individuals receive spill alerts quickly, 24/7, and that notifications are directly relevant to their self-identified needs.

The spill notification system was developed through a collaboration between 12 First Nations on the northern Pacific Coast and the BC Government’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative has coordinated the collaboration.

The system leverages the technology of Alertable, the app used by many local governments to send critical alerts to residents, businesses and visitors for extreme weather events such as floods and fires, as well as for community notices such as water advisories.

First Nations played a key role in guiding the configuration of the novel technology and related notification procedures. Early on, participating First Nations led a virtual exercise to identify gaps and challenges in the old system. They also participated in a pilot project to test and refine the technology.

With this new system, First Nation governments are able to define their geographic areas of interest for receiving notifications, and community members can sign up to receive real-time notifications by phone, text, or email when incidents occur.

This approach replaces a manual method, which often resulted in notification gaps and delays. The old system required Ministry staff to determine which First Nations should be notified and to triage the highest priority spills for notification. Notifications were made by phone to numbers only answered during business hours, and responders relied on contact databases that required ongong maintenance.

The new notification system is currently being rolled out to other First Nations across BC. As of June 2024, 22 First Nations are receiving notifications, and the system is proving to be reliable and effective.

First Nations in BC interested in adopting it can reach out to spillresponse@gov.bc.ca to express interest.


“We are pleased to have worked together with our provincial government partners on this. It’s so important that the new notification system is informed by Indigenous perspectives and needs, and the process undertaken to develop it reflects the shared commitment to collaboration and co-management of our marine ecosystems. We feel confident that this new system will be a vast improvement in getting information to First Nations leaders, staff and community members.” – Christine Smith-Martin, CEO, Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative

“First Nations have always been stewards of their communities and often play a key role in spill response. So it’s critical they get the right information as fast as possible. With more than 200 distinct First Nations in the province, we are always looking for better ways to make sure leaders and responders have the information they need, no matter the time of day. That’s why we’ve been implementing Alertable as a better way to support First Nations, and we’re ready and willing to help more First Nations get set up on this new and effective app.” – Hon. George Heyman, BC Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy

“Spills pose a constant and unpredictable threat to marine environments and species, including critical food sources for coastal communities. It’s imperative that First Nations receive timely and accurate information about marine spills so that they can respond quickly to protect these vital resources.” – Steve Diggon, Marine Program Manager, Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative


  • First Nations on the northern Pacific Coast first identified the need for an improved spill notification system in 2021 during the planning work for a Reconciliation Framework for Bioregional Oceans Management and Protection (RFA).
  • The improved spill notification system is part of a broader effort to strengthen collaboration between provincial, federal and First Nations partners and to support Indigenous involvement in spill preparedness, response, and recovery.
  • First Nations that participated in the development of the notification system are: Heiltsuk Nation, Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation, Nuxalk Nation, Wuikinuxv Nation, Council of the Haida Nation, Metlakatla Stewardship Society and Nanwakolas Council, which represents Mamalilikulla, Tlowitsis, Da’naxda’xw Awaetlala, Wei Wai Kum, We Wai Kai, and K’ómoks First Nations.
  • Coordination for the collaboration was provided by Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative.
  • Funding for the new technology was provided by the Province of BC.


Coastal First Nations-Great Bear Initiative
c/o Julie Gordon
Cell: 778-997-7141
Email: julie@juliegordon.com

Province of BC
Media Line
Direct: 250-953-3834
Email: envmedia@gov.bc.ca