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

Donation saves Ladysmith Logger Sports pole climbing competition

The death-defying and stomach-turning skills of the world’s best lumberjacks will go… Continue reading

Ladysmith athletes set to represent Central-Island at BC Summer Games

Town budgets up to $60K for facility improvements

Inside the music

Big Read: step behind the curtain at the venerable Vancouver Island Music Festival

Ladysmith councillor resigns due to personal reasons

Councillor Carol Henderson is resigning her seat at the Ladysmith city council… Continue reading

Possible man overboard delays Crofton-Vesuvius ferry

Air and water search and rescue teams called out to police incident

BC Games: Day 1 comes to an end

Medals have already been handed out following one day of competition in the 2018 BC Summer Games

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

ZONE 6: Rugby star Maggie Banks carries family legacy to BC Games

Shawnigan Lake student and Coquitlam native following her parents to the national program

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Photo gallery: BC Games Day 1

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

UPDATED: Anti-pipeline campers digging in as eviction deadline expires

The City of Burnaby had ordered the Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters out for violating bylaws

Trump was taped talking of paying Playboy model: AP source

Source says former personal lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded discussion prior to 2016 election

Most Read