Wednesday, May 8 was the day for a national test of the AlertReady system, which is run by Pelmorex.  Each province was responsible for issuing a test alert and the alert times were coordinated to avoid conflicting alerts along provincial borders.

Emergency Management BC issued B.C.’s test alert on May 8, at 1:55 pm (PDT).  During the test, the public would have heard this alert tone and heard or saw the following message on radio, TV, and compatible wireless devices:

This is a TEST of the British Columbia Emergency Alerting System, issued by Emergency Management British Columbia. This is ONLY a TEST. If this had been an actual emergency or threat, you would now hear instructions that would assist you to protect you and your family. For further information go to www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca. This is ONLY a TEST, no action is required.

Do not call 911 for additional information about the test. Using 911 for non-emergency calls could delay help for people experiencing real emergencies.

This and subsequent testing determine the system’s readiness for an actual emergency, as well as identify any issues prior to formal implementation in B.C.

Messages delivered through BC’s Emergency Alerting System will complement, not replace, existing notification methods via social media (EmergencyInfoBC & @EmergencyInfoBC), the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS) or other emergency warning functions provided by local authorities, First Nations and related agencies.

What I Need to Know:

What is Alert Ready?

  • Alert Ready is a Canada-wide program that allows government officials in each province and territory to issue emergency alerts.
  • You can currently expect to receive emergency alerts via compatible wireless devices, and from Canadian radio, TV, cable and satellite operators.
  • Visit Alert Ready to find out if your device is compatible.
  • Alerts will be issued only to affected regions within BC; however, some alerts could be issued province-wide or could affect more than one region.

Will I receive an emergency alert on my phone?

  • In order for emergency alerts to be received on a wireless device, the device must be:
    • A smartphone that is able to use the LTE (or 4G) network for high-speed wireless communication;
    • Wireless Public Alerting compatible;
    • Have up-to-date software;
    • Connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued; and
    • Within the emergency alert area.
  • To find out if your phone is compatible, visit Alert Ready.
  • Some carriers are doing silent tests of their systems to make sure things are working in advance of the test.  Depending on your phone settings you may receive an alert without a sound.

Will I get an alert tone?

  • In general, the alerts respect the settings of your compatible wireless device. For example, a compatible wireless device that is set to silent will display an emergency alert, but not play the alert tone.
  • The emergency alert sound will usually play at whatever the current volume setting is on the wireless device. If your wireless device is set to silent, no sound will accompany the emergency alert message; however, this can differ depending on your wireless device.
  • In some instances the alert sound may override your user settings. Please contact your telecom service provider to discuss your settings.

What should I do if I see or hear an emergency alert?

  • Upon receiving an emergency alert, it is important to take action safely. Stop what you are doing when it is safe to do so and read the emergency alert. Information could include, but is not limited to: limit unnecessary travel, evacuate the area, seek shelter, etc.
  • If safe to do so, seek credible information from officials in your community.
  • Do not contact 911 for information related to an alert

What hazards will I be alerted to?

  • Currently, Emergency Management BC will only use Alert Ready to notify of a potential tsunami.
  • BC RCMP has the ability to use Alert Ready to notify of an AMBER Alert.
  • As the system is expanded to include other hazards, there will be subsequent testing.

How will I know when an alert has ended?

  • An “all clear” message may be issued once the situation has been resolved. The “all clear” message could be distributed via radio and television stations at their discretion, but will not be sent to wireless devices.
  • Always listen to local media and officials for updates on the event specific to your community.

Can I opt-out of alerts to wireless devices?

  • Due to the importance of public safety, the CRTC requires wireless service providers to distribute alerts on all compatible wireless devices connected to an LTE network in a target area.
  • Unlike radio and television broadcasting, which often has broad areas of coverage, wireless public alerting is geo-targeted. As a result, if an emergency alert reaches your wireless device, you are located in an area where there is an imminent danger. Visit the CRTC webpage for more information.

Will I be charged for the service?

  • Alerts will be broadcast at no cost and without a subscription. This will ensure the maximum number of people receive the alert.

Will this replace www.emergencyinfobc.gov.bc.ca@EmergencyInfoBC, the Provincial Emergency Notification System (PENS) or other emergency notification functions?

  • The BC Emergency Alerting System will complement, not replace, emergency alerting already performed by EMBC, local authorities, First Nations and other agencies.

Why does the alert say “Presidential Alert”?

  • Wireless public alerts use an international standard and broadcast on the channel that is designated for a “Presidential Alert” in the United States.
  • Governments and private sector partners have worked with Canadian wireless service providers to use the term “EMERGENCY ALERT / ALERTE D’URGENCE”, as identified in version 2.0 of the National Public Alerting System Common Look and Feel Guidance, published on March 29, 2018.
  • However, some phones pre-date this guidance, were purchased outside of Canada or were manufactured to be compatible with the U.S. Wireless Emergency Alerts system. This means they will use the American international standard and will display “Presidential Alert”, or another non-Canadian banner.

How often will the system be tested?

  • Tests are currently conducted twice a year. Dates and times will be advertised.

If you have questions or concerns please contact EMBCpublicalerting@gov.bc.ca.