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
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.
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
- AEBC Internet
- Bell ExpressVu
- Bragg Communications Incorporated
- Câblevision du Nord de Québec
- Cogeco Connexion Inc.
- IAAK Technologies
- K-Right Communications
- Nexicom Communications
- Persona Communications
- Shaw Direct
- Wightman Telecom
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.
What we are doing
Decisions, Notices and Orders
- WPA Public Awareness Ad-hoc Working group (WPWG): Letters
- Letter addressed to Distribution List - Re: Requirement that Wireless Service Providers distribute additional visible wireless test alerts
- SOREM letter: Request for a second, all channel, public awareness test message
- CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee – Consensus reports on a proposed wireless public alerting test alert schedule and methodology (Decision CRTC-2018-108)
- CRTC to protect more Canadians with wireless alerts
- CRTC Interconnection Steering Committee – Consensus report on a proposed wireless public alerting awareness and education campaign (Decision CRTC 2018-85)
- Implementation of the National Public Alerting System by wireless service providers to protect Canadians (Telecom Regulatory Policy 2017-91)
- Participation by wireless service providers in the National Public Alerting System (Notice of Consultation 2016-115)
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Licence renewals (Decision 2013-263, in particular paragraphs 287-297)
- Amendments to various regulations, the standard conditions of licence for video-on-demand undertakings and certain exemption orders - Provisions requiring the mandatory distribution of emergency alert messages (Regulatory Policy 2014-444 and Broadcasting Orders CRTC 2014-445, 2014-446, 2014-447 and 2014-448)
- The Weather Network/Météomédia – Licence renewal and extension of the mandatory distribution of the service (Decision 2011-438)
- Revised exemption order for certain classes of video-on-demand (VOD) undertakings and updated standard conditions of licence for licensed VOD undertakings (Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2015-355 and Broadcasting Order 2015-356)
- Call for comments on proposed amendments to various regulations, to the standard conditions of licence for video-on-demand undertakings, and to certain exemption orders – Provisions requiring the mandatory distribution of emergency alert messages (Broadcasting Notice of Consultation 2014-8
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