Wednesday’s test of the Alert Ready system is being hailed as a success despite the fact many people reported not receiving the loud warning on their cellphones.
“That’s why we do tests. To make sure. Overall, it went well, There were glitches and we just have to let the experts tweak those going forward,” said the minister responsible for the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson.
The test in Alberta was one of several across the country. Emergency alerts were pushed to cellphone carriers who then pushed them to customers’ phones. They’re designed to warn Canadians about emergencies like natural disasters or terrorist attacks.
For years, the alert has been broadcast on televisions and radios. Those with the appropriate apps have been able to access them on their phones. This is the first time the alerts have been pushed to handheld devices.
Officials still can’t say how many phones in Alberta did not receive the test alert. It isn’t hard to find people who did not.
At the time of the test, four of the Global Edmonton staff in the newsroom reported not receiving the warning.
At a transit centre on Thursday, three of six people asked about the alert said they didn’t get it either and they said that bothers them.
Anderson notes that while the “glitches” are fixed, the province has an emergency alert app for those who want to ensure they receive phone notifications. Alerts will still go out on TV and on the radio.
One of the companies responsible for pushing out the alerts says the technology is working. On Wednesday, tests were conducted in every province and territory except Ontario and Quebec.
“In terms of the process itself, of getting the alert through the whole network, that was a success,” said Paul Temple of Pelmorex Corp.
Pemlorex is responsible for delivering the emergency message to cellphone carriers. That happened. But Temple says the problems happened when trying to get the message to individual phones.
“The complexities with the phones is there’s so many makes, models, software versions, consumer settings. So part of the purpose of the test is to better understand how the phones would react,” Temple said.
“I think the first task is to really understand what happened, which cellphones were able to receive the messages, which weren’t.”
Mobile users in Ontario and Quebec were supposed to receive alerts on their devices Monday as part of a test of the regulator-mandated warning system, which was supposed to be fully in place by April 6.
No alerts were registered on devices in Quebec, while only some mobile subscribers in Ontario received the signal.
System operators blamed the Quebec malfunction on a computer coding error and were still investigating what went wrong in Ontario.
Pelmorex and others involved in the tests say they have learned from Monday’s failures.