Yesterday was the second national test of the Alert Ready public alert system in Canada. This time, unlike the last test, both my wife and I received alerts on our phones which are on Telus’ Koodo prepaid network.

There’s a couple things to keep in mind for these tests. They only work with compatible devices on an LTE network. Also, all alerts are sent out at the “Presidential” level so that they cannot be blocked. Many phones will just show ‘Emergency Alert’, but some like mine will show ‘Presidential Alert’ in the header.

Let me expand on that.

The system that has been put in place by Pelmorex Corp (owner’s of the Weather Network) on behalf of the federal and provincial governments is the same one used in the United States. In the USA there are three levels of alerts:

  1. Presidential Alerts – cannot be blocked unless device taken off network
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety of life
    • Extreme threats
    • Severe threats
  3. Amber Alerts

In Canada we use the same system, but alerts are only sent out at the Presidential level**. So, if you had your phone on, it is a LTE capable device compatible with the Wireless Public Alerting system, and you were connected to your provider’s mobile network (not WiFi), you should have received an alert yesterday. Hope that clears things up.

**  I personally think it is a mistake to send all alerts out at a Presidential level.

Amber alerts should be sent out as ‘Amber Alerts’. A couple of months ago an Amber Alert was sent out to all users in Manitoba after midnight. There was no need to wake me up for that. One twitter user called me selfish for saying so, but they misunderstand my point. I consider Amber Alerts as important, and my phone is set to receive that level of alert, but there is no need to wake me up for it. If I am asleep at 1:55 AM, there is exactly a zero percent chance that I am going to come across a missing child. If I am awake at that time and out in the community, I will look at my phone and get the message.

The danger here is that if there are too many Amber Alerts waking people up in the middle of the night, users will start putting their phones in airplane mode when they go to bed, not receiving ANY alerts even when they themselves may be in immediate danger. There are different alert levels for a reason, they should be used.