February 21, 2020

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New emergency-warning system

Province unveils Alert Ready to signal danger for citizens

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/5/2015 (1752 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's called Alert Ready, and it makes a sound you don't want to hear.

It means there's an immediate threat to life due to a natural disaster such as a tornado, or something man-made such as a chemical spill from a train derailment.

The province's new emergency-alerting system allows authorized government agencies to override TV and radio programming to issue a warning regarding an immediate threat to safety. The list of such emergencies includes tornadoes, flash floods, wildfires, chemical spills and hazardous train derailments.

"Hopefully, you won't hear it too often," Infrastructure and Transportation Minister Steve Ashton, minister responsible for emergency measures, said Tuesday.

"It is a sound that can broadcast an imminent potentially dangerous situation, and it could save your life.

"These are situations that Manitobans need to know that there is a specific risk."

Alert Ready's first provincewide test is at 1:58 p.m. today for all TV and radio stations. All Canadian radio and TV stations were required by the CRTC to broadcast emergency alerts as of March 31. It includes cable and satellite companies and video-on-demand services, but not news websites or Internet sites such as Netflix.

"As broadcasters, we've seen this as our job forever," said Lyndon Friesen, president of Golden West Radio.

"When there are problems and when there are emergencies, that's when we like to step up."

Tornadoes are among the natural disasters the Alert Ready system can warn the public about.

WALKER ASHLEY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES

Tornadoes are among the natural disasters the Alert Ready system can warn the public about.

Alert Ready is operated by Pelmorex Media Inc., the parent company of The Weather Network and MétéoMédia, and developed in partnership with federal, provincial and territorial emergency-management officials, Environment Canada and the broadcast industry.

Lee Spencer, assistant deputy minister for emergency services and protective services, said the province's involvement in rolling out Alert Ready has taken several years.

Spencer said TV viewers will see the alert in two ways; either in a full-screen warning or in a "crawler" that flows along the bottom of their TV screen.

Spencer said alerts will either be issued by the province, such as for hazardous-chemical spills or wildfires, or Environment Canada for an extreme weather event such as tornado activity.

He said Alert Ready can also be used by police for Amber Alerts in the event a child goes missing.

Spencer said alerts won't be broadcast provincewide for an incident confined to a particular area of Manitoba, but only on those stations that broadcast in the area.

"It can be targeted," Ashton added. "That's the key element."

Ashton added there will be a public-information campaign on the emergency-alert program in the coming weeks.

"We want people to understand that when they hear that alert, when they see that message, there is an imminent risk situation, and they should act accordingly," Ashton said. "We don't want to be crying wolf here. We want people to stop and listen when they hear this."

Ashton said the next step in expanding the warning network is to smartphones.

"Eventually, the vision is nothing less that however you communicate with the world and the world communicates with you, we want the ability to cut through everything," he said. "If there is a tornado or a forest fire or a flood that's creating an imminent risk to you and your family and community, we want to be able to get it through directly."

bruceowen@freepress.mb.ca

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