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

Kimberley’s Molly Miller qualifies for World Juniors

Cross country skier heads to Finland in January

Cattle truck crash closes Hwy 3 near Jaffray

A detour route is available via Betania Rd

Homeowner threatened with knife during Break and Enter near Kimberley

B & E occurred in Summer Subdivision just outside of Kimberley

Two wins over weekend for Kimberley Dynamiters

JOSH LOCKHART The Kimberley Dynamiters had a quick road-trip to Golden on… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Opening day at Kimberley Alpine Resort

The ski hill is officially open for the 2018/19 season.

‘Are we going to play?’ Alberta boy with rare illness no big deal for classmates

Porter Stanley is one of 30 people in the world to be diagnosed with Beare-Stevenson syndrome, a craniofacial disorder.

Publication ban on name of girl killed in Abbotsford school lifted

Reimer’s family had supported an application by Black Press to lift ban

B.C. securities regulator probes ‘most expansive’ alleged trading scheme in its history

Liht Cannabis Corp states it’s doing internal investigation, welcomes BC Securities Commission probe

Air passenger rights: 6 things about what the Liberals are offering

For 3- to 6-hour delays, compensation is $400. Between 6 and 9 hours, $700. Over 9 hours is $1,000

RCMP, civilian vehicles rammed in North Okanagan incident

Police attempt to stop truck near Enderby, thought to be tied to alleged Salmon Arm armed robbery

New biker gang with ties to Hells Angels crops up in Lower Mainland

The Street Reapers were formed late last year and have been seen in Fort Langley.

10-lane George Massey bridge too big, B.C. study says

Consultants say replacement tunnel cost similar to new bridge

Couple caught up in B.C. Legislature bomb plot to learn their fate

John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were arrested as part of an undercover RCMP sting on Canada Day 2013

Ryan Reynolds to narrate movie about B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest

Vancouver-born actor known for Deadpool movies will voice film to be released Feb. 15, 2019

Most Read