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

City of Fernie poised to approve $19.3m loan for multi-purpose centre

The City must prove it can pay its portion of the $72.5 million centre if successful for a grant

Elk Valley mines boost overall Teck production

Fording River, Elkview achieve record fourth quarter; Fording, Greenhills have bumper year

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

Man injured in police shooting near Nelson has died

The death follows an incident in Bonnington on Feb. 13

Local DJ to take stage at Fernie Stoke Fest

Jenn Johnson - aka Jenn Frost - confirmed as closing act at Fernie Stoke Fest on April 9

Fashion Fridays: Must have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Kootenay man dies in crash near Sparwood

Accident occurred last night east of Sparwood, RCMP appealing for witnesses

POLL: Are Wildlife Detection Systems in the Elk Valley working?

In 2016, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) installed two wildlife… Continue reading

Fernie Ghostriders face defeat during away weekend

Fans encouraged to wear white for first playoffs game at Fernie Memorial Arena, February 26

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Most Read