Who sends emergency alerts?
Federal, provincial, and territorial governments are responsible for issuing emergency alerts. Federally, emergency alerts are issued most frequently by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Media companies, including television, radio stations, cable and satellite distributors, as well as websites receive these emergency alerts and relay them to their consumers.
Since 2018, wireless service providers, like Videotron, are capable of distributing emergency alerts received from alerting authorities directly to their consumers’ compatible wireless devices connected to LTE networks using Cell Broadcast distribution.
Broadcasters and wireless service providers are only required to distribute emergency alerts for situations that pose an immediate threat-to-life: fire, natural disasters, biochemical risks, hazardous, environmental problems, terrorist threats, missing children (Amber Alert) and civil emergency.
How does the Alert Ready service work?
Emergency alerts intended for wireless devices are issued to a 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. Compatible wireless devices in the targeted area will receive the emergency alerts within seconds of alert issuance, provided the phones are powered on and connected to the LTE cellular network.
Emergency alerts begin with a distinct sound, known as the Canadian Alert Attention Signal. Emergency alerts sent to compatible wireless devices may also cause the phone to vibrate.
Attention : Note that you cannot opt out of receiving threat-to-life emergency alerts.
On compatible wireless devices, the emergency alert will display an EMERGENCY ALERT/ALERTE D’URGENCE banner, followed by text that describes the situation and provides instructions on what actions to take and where to find more information. At the top of each emergency alert, the issuing government agency will be clearly indicated.
Good to know
Emergency alerts will not end or terminate a voice call or data session in progress. If you are on a voice call when the emergency alert is received, you will be made aware of the alert by a notification tone (similar to call waiting). When your call terminates the alert will be displayed on your wireless device.
You could receive a Test alert. Test alert messages are intended to test the functionality of the system and inform consumer of wireless emergency alerts. They do not require the consumer to take steps to secure their safety.
On the other hand, when receiving the emergency alert it is important to take action safely. Stop what you are doing when it is safe to do so and read the emergency alert. Government officials will include, within the emergency alert, the information you need for any action you need to take. This could include but is not limited to: limit unnecessary travel, evacuate the areas, seek shelter, etc.
Who receives Alert Ready messages?
Anyone who has a wireless device that is WPA-compatible will receive Alert Ready messages. This is an LTE-device that has special software embedded in it which allows for messages sent by your service provider, via Cell Broadcast, to be received in the standard Alert Ready format
The list of the compatible devices is:
Xperia X, Xperia XA1, Xperia XA1 Ultra, Xperia XA2, Xperia XA2 Ultra, Xperia XZ2 Compact.
Are other mobile devices, like tablets, capable of receiving emergency alerts?
Wireless service providers are required to distribute Emergency alerts to compatible smartphones that can access LTE networks. Additional wireless devices such as tablets and wearable accessories, like smartwatches, may be capable, from a technical perspective, to receive some form of the message, but it will not necessarily be received on the device in the Alert Ready format.
Good to know
For information on compatible wireless devices offered by your wireless service provider, visit the Wireless section of AlertReady.ca.
Can I receive an emergency alert if my wireless device is off or set to silent?
A compatible wireless device that is turned off, or is in Airplane Mode, will not display an emergency alert. If the emergency alert is still active when the wireless device is powered on, and the user is still in the alert area, the wireless device will then display the alert.
A compatible wireless device that is set to silent will display an emergency alert, but you might not hear the emergency alert sound. The emergency alert sound will usually play at whatever the current volume setting is on the wireless device, so if your wireless device is set to silent, no sound will accompany the emergency alert message. However, this behaviour can differ depending on your wireless device and in some instances the alert sound may override your user settings.
Can I opt out of receiving emergency alerts on my wireless device?
No. emergency alerts received on your compatible wireless device are relevant to you and require immediate attention, and government regulations mandate that all compatible wireless devices receive all relevant alerts.
Unlike radio and television broadcasting, which often has broad areas of coverage; wireless public alerting is geo-targeted and can be very specific to a limited area of coverage. As a result, if an emergency alert reaches your wireless device, you are located in an area where there is an imminent danger.
What should I do if I am visually or hearing impaired?
If you are visually or hearing impaired, know that alerts may be adapted to alternate formats. However, not every alerting authority or every wireless device to which alerts are transmitted have the capacity to produce alternate formats. For emergency alerts distributed via compatible wireless devices, emergency alerts may be read to the recipient if their device supports this accessibility feature. The vibration feature that accompanies emergency alerts sent to compatible wireless devices will help to make hearing impaired people aware of the alerts.
Frequently asked questions about emergency alerts
No. Emergency alerts are sent using Cell Broadcast distribution. Cell Broadcast can only transmit information to your wireless device. This means that no data is being gathered about you, your wireless device or your location when emergency alerts are sent out.