Emergency Alert Messages and the National Public Alerting System

In 2014, the CRTC required that FM radio, AM radio and over-the-air (OTA) television stations, as well as subscription-based broadcasting service providersFootnote 1, to participate in the National Public Alerting System (NPAS).

Since April 6, 2018, the CRTC requires that all wireless service providers participate in the NPAS and begin distribution of wireless public emergency alerts on their long-term evolution (LTE) networks.

Emergency alert messages are issued by public officialsFootnote 2 who are designated by the federal government or your province or territory to warn the public of imminent or unfolding hazards to life and property (e.g., fire, natural disasters, biological threats, hazardous materials, environmental disasters, civil emergencies). These officials are also responsible for issuing scheduled test messages.

Each year, during Emergency Preparedness Week in May, wireless service providers and broadcasters will distribute a test alert.

Wireless Public Alerting

To be able to receive wireless alerts, your mobile device must be an LTE device like a smartphone, compatible with wireless public alerting, and connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued.

Emergency alerts are issued to a defined geographic area, such that only people in the defined area will receive the emergency alerts. If you are travelling in another province when an alert is issued, your compatible wireless device will receive the alert, provided your phone is powered on and connected to the LTE cellular network. There is no need to enable the location services on your wireless device to receive alerts.

When an alert is issued, you will hear the same alert tone on your mobile devices as you currently do while listening to the radio or watching television. The alert will also trigger a unique vibration cadence.

Testing response of mobile phones to wireless public alerts

Background

In January 2020, the CRTC, together with the federal Communications Research Centre Canada, tested different mobile phones to see how they respond to wireless public alerts. This testing was done due to complaints the alerts were still audible even if the device was set to silent or do-not-disturb mode.

Public alerts are potentially life-saving urgent messages that are sent via the National Public Alerting System to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. To receive an alert, the devices must be connected to an LTE (long-term evolution) or newer wireless network.

In Canada, all wireless service providers must participate in the National Public Alerting System. However, the CRTC does not regulate the companies that make mobile devices.

Key findings

Not all phones react the same way

Our tests found that not all wireless devices react the same way to public alerts.

Depending on your device, you may be able to choose how your phone alerts you. For example, some devices can be set to vibrate or remain completely silent, or play the alert sound at a lower volume. However, the ability to silence or control the volume of an alert depends on the make, model and operating system of the device.

Not all phones meet Canadian alerting standards

Devices that are purchased outside of Canada or directly from the manufacturer may not meet Canadian alerting standards and guidelines.

  • If you need help verifying the notification settings for public alerts on your device, please contact your service provider or the company that made your mobile device.

Read the full report on testing response of mobile phones to wireless public alerts

Providers that distribute emergency alerts

The list of subscription-based broadcasting service providers currently participating in the NPAS

The following list indicates the subscription-based broadcasting service providers that distribute emergency alerts. If you subscribe to one or more of the subscription based broadcasting service providers below, you should be receiving emergency alert messages. If you require more details, please contact your broadcasting service provider.

Subscription-based broadcasting service providers that distribute emergency alert messages:

  • 2251723 Ontario
  • Access
  • AEBC Internet
  • Bell
  • Bell ExpressVu
  • Bragg Communications Incorporated
  • Câblevision du Nord de Québec
  • Cogeco Connexion Inc.
  • IAAK Technologies
  • K-Right Communications
  • Nexicom Communications
  • Northwestel
  • Persona Communications
  • Rogers
  • SaskTel
  • Shaw
  • Shaw Direct
  • Sogetel
  • TBayTel
  • TELUS
  • Vianet
  • Vidéotron
  • Wightman Telecom
  • Zazeen

The map of FM radio, AM radio and over-the-air (OTA) television stations broadcasting emergency alert messages

If you want to find out whether you can receive emergency alert messages where you live, consult the map below:

TV and Radio Stations that Broadcast Emergency Alert Messages

Important Notes

There might be radio or TV stations or subscription service providers broadcasting or distributing emergency alert messages that aren’t on our map or that do not appear in the list. Why?

There are two possible reasons.

First, the map and list are created by using data collected from CRTC annual surveys that are issued to FM radio, AM radio and over-the-air (OTA) television stations, as well as subscription-based broadcasting service providers. Recipients are required to submit the surveys to the CRTC no later than November 30 of each year. The data contained in the list and map were collected as part of the November 30, 2018 annual surveys. Any station or service provider that started broadcasting or distributing emergency alerts after November 30, 2018 may not appear on the map and in the list.

Second, the surveys were only sent to FM radio, AM radio and over-the-air (OTA) television stations and subscription-based broadcasting service providers holding a broadcasting licence from the CRTC. Some stations or service providers, under very specific conditions, are not required to have a licence and therefore do not appear in the map or list.

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