May 17, 2019 10:27 am
Updated: May 17, 2019 10:29 am

Angry 9-1-1 calls after Amber Alerts prompt discussion about alternatives

After a 3-year old boy went missing in Toronto, a loud alert was sent to every Ontario resident on the LTE network. That dawn alert led to residents calling law enforcement complaining that it woke them up. Now, experts are looking into alternative emergency communication.

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A loud phone alert sounded off in homes across Ontario on Tuesday morning after a three-year old boy went missing.

As many people scrambled to aid in the search, others phoned law enforcement to complain that the alert woke them from their sleep.

WATCH: Niagara police release 911 complaint call over Amber Alert

The alert was issued by the Greater Sudbury police service around 5 a.m. after the boy was last seen on a bus travelling to Toronto from Sudbury with a woman.

Toronto police told Global News the boy was located at a condo near Lake Shore Boulevard West and Fort York Boulevard in the city’s downtown just before 8 a.m., about three hours after the alert was issued.

READ MORE: 3-year-old boy located after Amber Alert issued: Toronto police


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The reaction to the amber alert from the Niagara resident isn’t uncommon. Many police services across the province have reported similar calls since the alerts started in early 2019.

Queen’s University marketing professor Tandy Thomas has been following the public’s behaviour when it comes to the alerts, and says that these messages are intended to notify a specific geographical area of an immediate danger, such as fires, natural disasters, biological threats, hazardous materials, environmental disasters, civil emergencies.

Although the noise is beneficial to track down a potential kidnapper, Thomas says the alert is not necessarily useful for those living distances away.

“The more this happens, the more people will become desensitized to it,” said Thomas.

READ MORE: Tempted to call 911 to complain about an Amber Alert? Don’t

As for a solution, Thomas told Global News, that telecoms needs to do a better job at notifying those who are affected. Ways in which they can do so, Thomas said, is by geographically targeting those living near the incident or where the child may be.

Global News spoke to several Kingston residents who received the alert, and each had a similar response when asked if they believe all Ontarians should receive the emergency message.

“People who complain will understand when it happens to someone they love and care about,” said Jordan Babando.

“If you want to complain about getting woken up at 3 in the morning, that’s the least of your worries,” said Jay Lane.

READ MORE: This is a test: Emergency alert demo coming to B.C. phones Wednesday afternoon

According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), it is not possible to opt out of the alerts, but should your device be set to silent, you will still receive the message but will not hear the alert sound.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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