Sep 25, 2018

By Michael Kramer

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Officials operating Canada’s system that alerts mobile devices about impending natural disasters – say there are still several kinks in the system to iron out – even as the alerts are being credited with saving lives just last week.

Mobile warnings flashed across the National Capital Region on Friday – as a storm bore down on the region and unleashed what Environment Canada now says were six tornadoes – three each in Ottawa and Gatineau, Quebec.

Scott Shortliffe of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission says about 100 alerts have been issued across the country since April 6th – when wireless warnings were added to the traditional television and radio messages broadcast by the National Public Alerting System.

Many of those alerts have been successful but Shortliffe says issues remain – including that fact that only cellphones and wireless devices connected to an LTE network – can receive the messages.

Another issue for the Gatineau tornadoes was that some of the messages broadcast in Quebec were in English only – though Shortliffe said responsibility for the language and content of warnings – lies with the provincial or municipal government issuing the alert.

Testing is set to continue across the country and the CRTC has directed that all cellphones sold in Canada be capable of receiving the alerts by next April – but Shortliffe expects there will continue to be some problems – particularly as people continue to use older phones.

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