Emergency Alerts and the National Public Alerting System

The National Public Alerting System is a federal, provincial, and territorial system that enables emergency management organizations across Canada to warn the public about imminent or possible dangers such as floods, tornados, hazardous materials, fires, and other disasters. The system is also used for Amber Alerts and other urgent bulletins about child abductions when the child is thought to be in grave danger.

These potentially life-saving warnings, which are area-specific (geo-targeted), are known as emergency alerts. When an alert is issued, it is broadcast on television and radio and sent to mobile devices that are connected to an LTE (long-term evolution) network.

Emergency alerts are created and sent by authorized emergency management organizations, such as police departments, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and provincial and territorial bodies.

Role of the CRTC

The CRTC worked with the Canadian broadcasting industry and government stakeholders to develop the National Public Alerting System. We are also responsible for enforcing the regulations that require mobile service providers, cable and satellite companies, and radio and television broadcasters to distribute emergency alerts.

Each year, wireless service providers and broadcasters send out two test alerts. The first is sent in May during Emergency Preparedness Week. The second is usually sent in November.

More information on the National Public Alerting System is available at AlertReady.ca.(external link)

On this page

Consistent appearance and sound of alerts

Alerts on television and radio

Alerts on mobile devices

Emergency alert distributors

Related links

Consistent appearance and sound of alerts

To ensure they are easily recognizable anywhere in Canada, the visual appearance, sound, content, and other aspects of emergency alerts are guided by the Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management. This federal, provincial and territorial body works to harmonize and improve emergency practices across the country.

Alerts on television and radio

When an emergency management organization sends out an emergency alert in a situation that is potentially life-threatening, it is broadcast automatically and regular programming is interrupted on TV and radio stations in the chosen geographic area accompanied by a unique alert tone.

Alerts on mobile devices

All wireless service providers are required to distribute emergency alerts to the devices connected to their LTE networks. Alerts on mobile devices trigger a unique vibration and use the same tone as that used for television and radio alerts.

To receive wireless alerts, your mobile device must be:

You do not need to enable location services on your wireless device to receive an alert.

Because emergency alert messages are distributed to a defined geographic area, only devices in the selected area will receive an emergency alert. This means that, if you travel elsewhere in Canada and an alert is issued for your location, you will receive the alert, provided you have a compatible device that is connected to an LTE network.

Can I choose not to receive alerts?

No. Emergency alerts are issued only if there is an imminent threat to life or property so that you can take action to keep yourself and your family safe. For that reason, they are considered critically important for everyone located in the target area.

The CRTC therefore requires wireless service providers to distribute alerts to all compatible wireless devices connected to an LTE network in the area covered by the alert.

However, depending on your device, you may be able to choose how your phone alerts you.

Emergency alert distributors

Emergency alert distributors fall into four categories:

View list of participating subscription-based television providers

The following is a list of the subscription-based television service providers participating in the National Public Alerting System. This list is considered current as of November 30, 2019.

Access Communications
AEBC Internet
Bell Media
Bell Satellite TV (ExpressVu)
Câblevision du Nord de Québec
Cogeco
EastlinkFootnote 2
IAAK Technologies (Surf Internet)
Nexicom Communications
Northwestel
Rogers
SaskTel
Shaw Direct
Shaw TV
Sogetel
Tbaytel
TELUS
TotalTV (Zazeen)
Vianet
Vidéotron
VMedia (2251723 Ontario)
Wightman Telecom

Location of broadcast and wireless emergency alert distributors (interactive map)

Related Links

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