A man looks at his phone as he walks along the Samsung stand during the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, on February 27, 2017. Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for a looming update to the National Public Alerting System that will force smartphones to sound an ominous alarm when an emergency alert is triggered. In a case of emergencies including Amber Alerts, forest fires, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or severe weather, officials will be able to send a localized alert that will compel compatible phones on an LTE network to emit an alarm — the same shrill beeping that accompanies TV and radio emergency alerts — and display a bilingual text warning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Emilio Morenatti

No opting out: Canadians to get emergency alerts on their phones soon

Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for a looming update to the National Public Alerting System

Canada’s wireless providers are preparing for a looming update to the National Public Alerting System that will force smartphones to sound an ominous alarm when an emergency alert is triggered.

In case of emergencies including Amber Alerts, forest fires, natural disasters, terrorist attacks or severe weather, officials will be able to send a localized alert that will compel compatible phones on an LTE network to emit an alarm — the same shrill beeping that accompanies TV and radio emergency alerts — and display a bilingual text warning.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission gave wireless providers a year to implement the system with a deadline of April 6 to be ready to go live. A report by the CRTC said most wireless providers were in favour of an opt-out option or the ability to disable the alarm for some types of alerts, but consumers can’t turn off the warnings.

“People cannot opt out of this,” said CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao. “There is a high importance that people — want it or not — receive these alerts.”

Related: B.C. emergency phone text testing starts in May

If a smartphone is turned off it cannot be forced on by an alert. Similarly, if a smartphone is muted an alert cannot force the device to play the alarm. While a broad range of popular phones are compatible with the program, wireless providers have released different lists of phones that will receive the alerts on their networks. Consumers can look up their phone and more information on the program at alertready.ca.

Patrick Tanguy, an assistant deputy minister with Public Safety Canada, said while it was ultimately the CRTC’s decision to keep consumers from having the option of opting out, he defended that call.

“When you’re getting those alerts your life is at risk,” Tanguy said. ”So it’s not there’s potentially a danger, there is a danger.”

Similar alerting systems are already in place in other countries including the U.S., where a false alarm in Hawaii about a supposed missile attack made global headlines in January.

Related: Hawaii missile-alert mistake feeds doubts about a real emergency

New Zealand rolled out a similar system in November but a month earlier had a little snafu. A startling test alert was accidentally sent out at 1:30 a.m., which prompted many to seek ways to opt-out of the system.

There was similar grumbling in New York in 2013 when an alert about a missing child was issued at 3:51 a.m., prompting a debate about whether people should be roused from their sleep in such instances.

Saskatchewan’s provincial emergency public alerting program also had a bit of a hiccup in January when users of the optional SaskAlert app got false warnings about a flood and a wildfire. Officials later said some staff were training on the system and sent the alerts out by mistake.

Tanguy admitted the new federal system “is not 100 per cent bulletproof” but said officials from the various levels of government have been working on researching best practices and training “to make sure those events don’t happen like it happened in Hawaii.”

The mobile alert system is administered by Pelmorex Corp., the parent company of the Weather Network, which will be sending out test alerts in early May to get consumers used to the program.

“People should hopefully be familiar with that sound by the time they get an actual emergency message,” said Paul Temple, senior vice-president of regulatory and strategic affairs at Pelmorex.

“Nowadays pretty well everyone has a phone and you’re not necessarily listening to the radio or watching TV, so it’s just another way to reach people quickly when their life is possibly in danger.”

The CRTC has said wireless providers cannot charge a separate fee on consumers’ bills for participating in the mobile alerting system.

———

On the web: https://www.alertready.ca

Michael Oliveira, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Editorial: Go out and play

How much is too much screen time?

Fort St. James businesses get into the Christmas spirit with decorating contest

Northland Automotive Ltd. won first place in Fort St. James Chamber of… Continue reading

Couple selling fake jewelry in Fraser Lake, say RCMP

A man and woman have been defrauding local residents, offering fake jewelry for sale

Gitxsan forming cross-sector salmon management team

Nation again declares closure of fishery in territory for 2019

Omar Khadr wants changes to bail conditions

‘My life is held in suspension’, says the former Guantanamo Bay detainee

Police across Canada probe bomb threats as U.S. authorities dismiss ‘hoax’

A police spokesman said the emails were the same as those received elsewhere in North America

France shooter killed Thursday during police operation

7 more being held by police in shooting investigation

Shootout loss for Canada West against Czech Republic

Team Canada West now looking forward to semifinal game

Ex-Trump lawyer: Hush money paid over election concerns

Michael Cohen was sentenced Wednesday to three years in federal prison

Sissons scores OT winner as Predators beat Canucks 4-3

VIDEO: Vancouver battles back to earn single point in Nashville

Lions announce seven members of coaching staff not coming back for 2019

The operational moves come two days after the Lions announced DeVone Claybrooks as the team’s new head coach

$12K awarded to atheist family who oppose Christmas, Hanukkah in B.C. classroom

Gary Mangel,May Yasue said holidays, Remembrance Day and Valentine’s Day not appropriate in preschool

Coach accused of sexual assault says apology letter was misinterpreted

Dave Brubaker has pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual assault and one count of invitation to sexual touching

Most Read