The Alert Ready system allows notifying authorities from federal, provincial and territorial governments to issue a wide range of public safety messages directly to your mobile device.
Government officials developed and agreed on a specific list of alerts that are considered a threat-to-life and should be distributed immediately, interrupting radio and television broadcasts. These "Broadcast Immediately" emergency alerts have the highest level of severity, urgency and certainty and broadcasters and wireless service providers are required to relay these emergency alerts.
For a full list of alerts, visit the Alert Ready website. Issuing alerts outside of this list (for example heavy rainfall or blizzard warnings) is at the discretion of each of the broadcasters. Wireless service providers will only receive and relay messages that are issued for threat-to-life situations.
Federal, provincial, and territorial governments are responsible for issuing emergency alerts.
Federally, emergency alerts are issued most frequently by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Each provincial or territorial government decides who will have the authority to issue alerts within their jurisdictions. For example, emergency alerts could be issued by provincial or territorial emergency management offices or in some cases by municipal emergency management offices or local police and fire departments.
Media companies, including television, radio stations, cable and satellite distributors, as well as websites receive these emergency alerts and relay them to their consumers. As of April 6, 2018, wireless service providers are required to distribute emergency alerts received from alerting authorities directly to their consumers' compatible wireless devices connected to LTE networks using Cell Broadcast distribution.
Several factors determine if you will receive an emergency alert including:
The alerting authority determines what areas are affected by an incident, weather, or environmental situation, and uses a standard system that will typically correspond with municipal, regional, or provincial boundaries. The standardized system will allow participating radio, television, cable and satellite companies to broadcast the emergency alerts that are most relevant to the communities they serve.
You will receive an emergency alert on a wireless device within your defined geographic area, which can be as small as a few city blocks, so that only people in the defined area receive the emergency alerts.
You will not receive an emergency alert if your compatible phone is turned off or has Airplane Mode enabled. If the emergency alert is still active when your phone is powered back on, and you are still in the alert area, then the alert will display.
The emergency alert sound will play at whatever the current volume setting is on your phone, so if its set to silent, no sound will accompany the emergency alert message, but an alert will display. This behaviour can differ depending on your phone and in some instances the alert sound may override your user settings.
Cellular Towers and Antennas
Emergency alerts are broadcast from cellular towers and antennas within the area specified by the alert issuer. Compatible phones connected to the specified towers/antennas will receive the emergency alert. The towers/antennas therefore must be operational to send emergency alerts. If you are in an affected area but your phone is unable to connect to any towers/antennas because of the situation, you will not receive the emergency alert.
In order to receive emergency alerts your phone must be:
Additional wireless devices – such as tablets and wearable accessories (e.g. smartwatches) – may be capable of receiving messages via Cell Broadcast, but depending on device manufacturer and software, they may not be displayed in the Alert Ready format.
Alert Ready officially launched in Canada in 2014 with TV and radio broadcasters and is designed to deliver critical and potentially life-saving alerts to Canadians. Alerting on wireless phones is the newest part of Alert Ready, which launched in April 2018.
The first ever public wireless test messages issued during Emergency Preparedness Week in May 2018 revealed some technical challenges, all of which have since been addressed.
Since the addition of wireless alerts in April 2018, more than 100 emergency alerts and updates have been successfully transmitted nationally. These alerts have been credited with saving lives, as experienced with the Ottawa/Gatineau tornadoes on September 21, 2018.
All industry partners have agreed to a regular testing schedule for the Alert Ready system. Regularly testing and evaluating these systems and processes helps to ensure that in times of an emergency or disaster, we are prepared to deliver urgent and lifesaving warnings to the public.
Building a safe and reliable public alerting system in Canada is a responsibility shared by all levels of government and all industry partners alike.
Ongoing testing allows for continuous improvement on the effectiveness of this important safety system for all Canadians.
While the emergency alert may look like a text message it is not a text message.
Emergency alerts are sent via Cell Broadcast distribution. Cell Broadcast is a mobile technology that allows messages to be broadcast to any and all compatible wireless devices that are within range of cell towers and antennae in a designated geographical area. Cell Broadcast is designed for simultaneous message delivery to multiple users in a specified area and is not affected by network congestion because it uses a dedicated part of the network, separate from regular voice and data traffic.
Not all Canadians will receive the test alert on their mobile device. This may occur for a variety of reasons:
Test alert messages will be identified as such. These messages are intended to test the functionality of the system, and inform you of wireless emergency alerts, and do not require that you to take steps to secure your safety.
You may be required to acknowledge receipt of the emergency alert in order to allow for your wireless device to resume normal functioning. If you cannot acknowledge the alert, the alert sound and vibration will continue for 8 seconds. Depending on your specific wireless device, additional reminders may occur.