‘Glitch’ inundates Albertans with emergency alert tests, Smith blames feds

Albertans received multiple emergency alert test messages on March 1, 2023. Global News

A scheduled test of the emergency alert system was apparently left on repeat Wednesday afternoon.

The alert that was supposed to be sounded once at 1:55 p.m. to radio, television and mobile phones went on to provide at least nine alerts.

Late Wednesday, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis issued a statement, saying a “glitch” caused the repeat messages.

“All partners in the National Public Alerting System are working with the Alberta Public Alerting team to identify and resolve the issue that caused these repeat alerts,” Ellis’ statement read, adding the government recognizes the disruption the multiple alerts caused for Albertans.

“Incidents like the one that occurred are exactly why we conduct testing on the alert system. We need to ensure that the system is working as intended during an actual emergency to protect Albertans.”

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Speaking in front of the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) Thursday afternoon, Premier Danielle Smith – who was AEG’s president before winning the UCP leadership – pointed the finger at the feds.

“There was a bit of an emergency yesterday – I think some of you got probably seven indications on your phones,” Smith said, musing about cat memes in response to the multiple alerts.

“It won’t surprise you that our system worked fine. It was the integration with the federal system that caused the problem.

“So typical, wasn’t it?”

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The National Public Alert System provides emergency management organizations across the country the ability to rapidly notify Canadians of imminent dangers or other warnings.

Federal governments, provinces, territories and authorized municipal agencies send alerts to the national alert aggregation and dissemination system, which, in turn, pushes notifications to radio and television stations, cable and satellite distributors, cell phone companies, social media platforms and other web-based applications for the public to receive.

Global News has reached out to Public Safety Canada for comment and this story will be updated with its response.

The alerts were scheduled for March 1 to coincide with the start of wildfire season in the province.

Wednesday afternoon after the notifications concluded, Ellis’ press secretary Dylan Topal tweeted “Better safe than sorry folks” in response to a mention by the premier’s press secretary.

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Other users on social media had different opinions on what happened.

“I’m pretending someone rage quit their government job but not before they mashed send on the emergency alert 47 times,” Twitter user KadyDane posted on the social media site.

“Automating the emergency alert wasn’t a great call,” Bob Sumner wrote.

‘I’m convinced someone is having sex on the Emergency Alert button,” user SkipIsChris tweeted.

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“Is the emergency alert system experiencing an emergency?” University of Calgary instructor Paul Fairie wrote.

“Do you guys think the person in charge of the Alberta emergency alert had their computer freeze and then they got impatient and hit ‘send’ 10 times and now they’re all just coming through or what?” Country 105 host Josie Balka tweeted.

“How many times is it really necessary to test an emergency alert? Asking for Alberta,” user Alli Girl tweeted.

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