Usually we hear about the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) giving out scoldings to the Canadian carriers for violating this or fining them for that. However, today, the CRTC congratulated the Canadian wireless industry for developing a plan and specifications to get out emergency alerts messages to Canadians through their cellphones. Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC said, “Canadians have told us that emergency alerts on television and radio services are helpful, but that they would be more effective on mobile devices. The development of standards is an important step in ensuring that Canadians receive emergency alerts wherever they happen to be. More work needs to be done to ensure the standards will work in the real world, and we will continue to monitor this initiative.”
As of March 31, 2015, the vast majority of Canadians are able to receive emergency alert messages through their radio and television services, although Google initiated alerts in Maps for Canadian users two years ago . Emergency management officials, such as fire marshals, police officers, weather monitors and even public health officials can issue emergency alerts. Alerts could warn Canadians of a forest fire, tornado, Amber alerts, possible flooding, water contamination or an industrial disaster. With over 28 million wireless subscribers in Canada, the CRTC believes it is critical that emergency messages be delivered to mobile devices in additional to the more traditional method of running the alert on TV or on the radio. Jean-Pierre Blais said, “The experience in other jurisdictions has shown that mobile alerts are an efficient way to alert citizens in an emergency situation and even save lives. We are encouraged by the progress made to date, and urge all stakeholders to move as quickly as possible to make wireless public alerting a reality. Canadians carry their mobile devices with them everywhere and should have access to life-saving information as soon as it is available.”
During the upcoming months, the emergency management community and the wireless industry will continue to conduct testing with a public pilot project scheduled for 2016. Mobile devices that support the technology specifications will be able to receive and display the emergency alerts, popping up no matter what you would currently be doing on your smartphone. This service will be available in both English and French. The Network Working Group and the CRTC’s interconnection Steering Committee developed the specifications through an open forum that fosters collaboration between a wide range of participants. This is a great idea, especially as more and more individuals rely on their smartphone as their sole communications solution.