May 7, 2018 6:37 am
Updated: May 7, 2018 4:04 pm

Canadians to receive mobile emergency alert test this week: Here’s what to know

ABOVE: Starting April 6, most LTE mobile devices in Canada now can receive wireless public alerts in the event of an emergency.


Mobile devices across Canada will be buzzing a little more than usual this week as emergency management officials test a new national public alert system.

Test signals were supposed to be sent to millions mobile users in Quebec around mid-morning, but there was already a glitch due to a coding error.

READ MORE: No alerts for cell phone emergency alert system test in Quebec

“A space incorrectly included in the coding prevented the Alert Ready System from sending the Quebec test message to compatible wireless devices,” Pelmorex, who operates the system, said in a statement to Global News.

Pelmorex said the misconfiguration was quickly corrected.

The Ontario test alert at 1:55 p.m. ET also saw some hiccups, with many Twitter users saying they did not get the alerts, while others did. At least one cellphone service provider acknowledged the issue; Pelmorex has yet to offer a statement on the Ontario test’s success.

The emergency alerts system for mobiles that launched in Canada on May 7, 2018, got off to a rocky start.

Katie Dangerfield / Global News

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Cellphones, tablets and other devices will receive the signal in most of the rest of the country on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Nuclear attack warning in Winnipeg was a prank, here’s how to spot fake alerts

Depending on settings, users with compatible devices connected to an LTE network will hear a tone similar to an ambulance alarm or feel a vibration for eight seconds. Devices that are turned off won’t receive the signal but phone users will hear their conversations interrupted by a sound similar to a call waiting tone.

The tests are being conducted after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ordered wireless providers to implement the system to distribute warnings of imminent safety threats such as tornadoes, floods, Amber Alerts or terrorist threats.

Radio and TV stations will also run the tests.

A similar system is already used in the U.S., and made headlines earlier this year when an emergency official in Hawaii mistakenly sent an alert about a potential incoming ballistic missile.

A report issued last month by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said the false alarm, which went uncorrected for 38 minutes after being transmitted and caused widespread panic across the Pacific islands state, was a result of human error and inadequate safeguards.

READ MORE: Accidental ballistic missile alert warning issued to cell phones, TV and radio in Hawaii

“The CRTC has no insights with respect to what occurred in Hawaii, other than what has been reported in the media,” the regulator said.

“But Canada has safeguards in place” to prevent false signals from being distributed to mobile devices, said CRTC spokeswoman Patricia Valladao.

Unlike wireless emergency alerts issued in the U.S., Canada’s system requires a specific vibration cadence, alert tone and banner to notify users of an emergency.

As well, the emergency alerts are not text, or SMS, messages, but are distributed using what’s known as cell broadcast technology. The messages can’t be tracked by service providers so they can’t tell who has or has not received the alert, the CRTC said.

WATCH: How did a ballistic missile alert warning accidentally get sent out in Hawaii?

Some Canadian service providers sent text messages to subscribers last week alerting them to the tests, which are mandatory and may require users to acknowledge a message before they can resume normal use of their devices.

Here are the scheduled times for the tests. All times are local:


Quebec: 9:55 a.m.

Ontario 1:55 p.m.


Yukon 1:30 p.m.

Northwest Territories 1:55 p.m.

Alberta 1:55 p.m.

British Columbia 1:55 p.m.

Saskatchewan 1:55 p.m.

Manitoba 1:55 p.m.

Newfoundland and Labrador 1:55 p.m.

Nova Scotia 1:55 p.m.

Prince Edward Island 1:55 p.m.

New-Brunswick 6:55 p.m.

— With files from Global News

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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