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

Tom Pyper’s life on the South Saskatchewan Pipeline

Red Deer man looks back on his time working on the Cantuar pump station

Central Alberta Theatre is gearing up to present Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s)

Opening night is April 20th with shows running through to May 5th.

Burman U prof publishes international development book

The Development Trap: How Thinking Big Fails the Poor looks to challenge perceptions

WATCH: Check out this week’s What’s Up Wednesday

A weekly recap of the week in news

WATCH: Red Deerian receives award for aiding RCMP officer in arrest

Lonnie Amundson, rugby player, tackled a fleeing suspect to help ailing officer

WATCH: Red Deer’s latest ‘Ghost’ statue unveiled at Servus Arena

‘The Face-off’ is the 11th ‘Ghost’ in the notable bronze series

Driving Change: A B.C. man’s charitable trip across Canada

A Kelowna man, his bus, and his mission for positive change across our country

Case of teacher secretly filming teens reaches top court

Acquittal of teacher, Ryan Jarvis, who secretly videoed teens ‘dangerous,’ top court told

Why a 14-year-old will lead the charge at annual marijuana protest on the Hill

Marijuana enthusiasts have long been circling April 20 on their calendars as annual day of cannabis

RCMP say too early to know what happened in Broncos crash

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Curtis Zablocki said collission very complex

Conservative MP wants feds to close loophole for illegal border crossers

Immigration advocates call on government to suspend Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement

Alberta university criticized for honouring David Suzuki

University of Alberta plans to bestow environmentalist with honourary degree

Lance Armstrong settles $100M lawsuit with U.S. government

Disgraced cyclist reached $5-million settlement with sponsor U.S. Postal Service

Black Press Media acquires two new Alaska newspapers

New Media Investment Group to acquire the Akron (OH) Beacon Journal while Black Press Media takes on daily newspapers in Juneau and Kenai Alaska

Most Read