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Canada's emergency alert system tested Wednesday afternoon

Last Updated Nov 28, 2018 at 9:32 pm EDT

Emergency alert system sent to phones. CITYNEWS

It wasn’t perfect but officials say the second test of Canada’s new national public-alert system for mobile devices went better than the initial test six months ago.

Mobile phones, televisions and radios were abuzz across the country Wednesday as the Alert Ready system sent test alerts at 1:55 p.m. local time, with the exception of Quebec where the test was done an hour later.

Officials say not every mobile phone is compatible to the testing system and they recommended checking with your service provider.

“In terms of how it went, I would say it’s a significant improvement over May,” said Tim Warmington, a spokesman for Public Safety Canada. “The alerts were issued in every province and territory across the country on TV, radio and wireless.”

“This is a test of the Ontario Alert Ready System. There is no danger to your health of safety. If this was an actual emergency, you would now hear instructions for protecting yourself,” read the message that was sent.

Only 60 per cent of wireless users in Manitoba received an alert in the test of the system last May. In Ontario, some test alerts were heard and felt on mobile devices, but many wireless subscribers didn’t receive any signals.

The first test didn’t sound at all in Quebec due to a coding error, which the system operator said was fixed within a couple of hours.

Warmington said he doesn’t have data yet on how many Canadians received the latest alert. But he said you can be assured that it’s higher than last time.

“It was well documented the issue within Quebec, which has a quarter of the population right there. So just the fact the alert went out in Quebec means it absolutely will be better.”

An official with Pelmorex, which runs the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination (NAAD) system, said the test was successful in every province.

“We quickly validate and disseminate these alerts securely to television and radio broadcasters and wireless service providers for distribution to the public,” said Martin Belanger, director of public alerting.

“We can confirm that the NAAD system, part of Alert Ready, worked as intended for all test messages today.”

But not everyone received the alerts.

On the East Coast, users reported varying experiences, with some people not getting an alert. One Newfoundland resident got the alert on her work iPhone, but not on her personal Android phone.

In Nova Scotia, some Twitter users reported that they did not receive the emergency test.

“I guess I just remain in the dark!” wrote Twitter user Suzanne Rent from Halifax.

Nova Scotia Twitter user Nick Yorke tweeted: “My phone never seems to receive the emergency alert messages. I guess I’ll just die.”

There were also posts on social media from Manitobans who said they didn’t receive the alert.

But the province’s infrastructure minister, Ron Schuler, said the test went well and virtually everyone would have received it, unless their phone was off, on airplane mode or had older technology.

“(Providers) felt there was a 60 per cent coverage rate (in the May test), just because there were problems with the technology, and this time around, the technology worked flawlessly,” he said.

Warmington said testing of the system isn’t done.

“You’re always testing it. There’s always room for improvement. You always want it to be better.”


This is only the second time the emergency alert system has been tested. The previous test happened this past May.

With files from Steve Lambert in Winnipeg and Rob Roberts in Halifax