Broadcast of Amber Alert warning interrupts television, startles viewers

Click to play video 'OPP Amber Alert interrupting broadcast across Orillia area' OPP Amber Alert interrupting broadcast across Orillia area
ABOVE: OPP Amber Alert interrupting broadcast across Orillia area – Mar 7, 2016

An Amber Alert warning issued by the Ontario Provincial Police Sunday evening prompted the first broadcast of the new national public alert system across televisions throughout the province and caught many viewers by surprise.

Here’s what it looked like:

The system is designed to warn Canadians about emergencies such as water contamination, industrial disasters, tornadoes, forest fires, floods and in Sunday’s case, Amber Alerts.

The national alert system has been in place since 2010 and in August 2014, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) required all broadcasters and TV providers to begin relaying emergency alerts to localized audiences by March 31, 2015, through satellite, cable and digital TV.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) issued the Amber Alert for a boy between the ages of 8 and 13-years-old, just before 10 p.m. The alert was lifted at 11 p.m. after the boy was “located and safe.”

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Police said the boy had run away from home and it wasn’t a case of abduction.

However, Sunday’s broadcast received scorn on social media after the alert interrupted such shows as The Walking Dead.

The Amber Alert system has been in place in Canada since 2004. The system started after the abduction and brutal murder of Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old from Arlington, Texas.

On Monday, while the OPP thanked the public for assisting in the location of the missing boy, the police force also defended its decision to activate an Amber Alert and said it was “disappointed” by some of the reaction it received for the “inconvenience” the alert had caused.

“As police, we were concerned and public safety is our top priority. Time is never on our side in matters of this nature – and with time comes an expanding geography of concern,” Detachment Commander Inspector Pat Morris said in a statement. “Therefore, the OPP engaged the Ontario Amber Alert program, which has been enhanced in the past year to include notifications through the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination (NAAD) system.

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“I also thank the vast majority of the public for their support for the use of the NAAD system for this Amber Alert,” Morris said “However, I am disappointed with the numerous calls and social media postings that have expressed anger and frustration with the personal inconvenience caused by the NAAD system messages.

“While I will apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, we won’t apologize for using all of the tools available to us to find a missing child,” the officer said.

According to the OPP, the alerts are issued when:

-Law enforcement agency believes a child under the age of 18 has been abducted.

-Law enforcement agency believes the child is in danger;

-There is descriptive information about one or more of the following: Child; abductor and or vehicle.

-Believe an immediate broadcast alert will help in locating the child.