Manitoba smartphone users will soon have access to the sort of life-or-death emergency alerts Hawaiians infamously received on their mobile devices in January, warning of "ballistic missile threat inbound."
On Tuesday, some people in the province received text messages saying Canada's Alert Ready system will be available on compatible mobile devices, as of April 6.
Alert Ready allows authorities from each level of government to issue a wide range of public safety messages to its constituents, its website says.
A text message Tuesday from Telus Corporation to some Manitoba customers said the system "will broadcast emergency alerts to inform you of critical or potentially life-threatening situations that require immediate attention to keep you and your family safe."
A similar Bell MTS text message said: "Capable devices will receive emergency alerts from the government Alert Ready service."
"The text messages are being sent out in waves over the next several days," Bell MTS spokesman Jeremy Sawatzky said in an email Tuesday.
No representatives from Telus or Alert Ready responded to a request for comment.
The Alert Ready system was developed in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial emergency management officials, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Pelmorex Corp., and the broadcast industry to ensure Canadians receive important information and know when to take action to keep themselves safe.
The system already includes TV and radio broadcasters, which can also issue warnings for things that aren't necessarily life-threatening — such as heavy rainfall or blizzard warnings — at their discretion.
However, wireless service providers will only receive and relay messages that are issued for life-threatening situations, Alert Ready says.
In order to receive the emergency alerts, a wireless device has to be an LTE device, such as a smartphone. (LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, and is a 4G wireless broadband standard.)
The device must also be wireless public alerting (WPA) compatible and connected to an LTE cellular network at the time an emergency alert is issued.
There is no sign-up or opt-in required, Alert Ready says. Emergency alerts will be automatically sent to compatible wireless devices.
And there is no opt-out feature, either. Regulations require all Canadian wireless service providers to distribute emergency alerts.
A compatible wireless device that is turned off will not display an emergency alert. If the emergency alert is still active when the wireless device is powered up, and it is still in the alert area, the device will then display the alert.
A device that is set to silent will display an emergency alert, but no tone will accompany it — usually. Alert Ready says, depending on the device and circumstances, the alert tone may override user settings.
Alert Ready will issue a test alert for mobile devices in Manitoba, at 1:55 p.m., on May 9.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.