Canada Aims for Cohesive National Emergency System

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canada-159585__180-2Thanks to new technology, the Wireless Public Alerting System (WPAS), Canada may have one national emergency system plan instead of a bevy of scattered alerts.

Alberta Oil Magazine cited the situation in that particular province, stating that when there is an emergency in need of first responders, a “flurry” of cellular alerts are sent. They may be scattered across a large area with several organizations originating them, creating confusion.

Brenda Gheran, executive director of Northeast Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER), said with WPAS, “emergency responders wouldn’t have to do 15 different things to notify the public—they would have to do one really smart thing.” A version of WPAS is already out in the United States and Australia and would allow Canadian telecommunications providers to send messages to cell phones in one area, no matter where the phone is registered. 

Alberta Oil Magazine said the system would “work for any type of emergency the public needs to be notified about.” Alerts currently being used elsewhere include a “unique sound” and then a text explaining both incident and action. Gheran said this system, instead of a patchwork concept, would be simple, unified,direct and more efficient in an age of new, rapidly-changing technology.

Residents would not have to preregister for the service to get the alert, and telecom companies, after being asked their opinions by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), said users should be able to opt out or customize alerts. Rogers, Bell and Telus expressed support for the system, however there was a concern about “using the existing infrastructure to send alerts by text message, which could potentially overload the network.”

All three companies recommended Cell Broadcast messaging, a technology that could help with mass messages, still in development. Others, like Tracey McCrimmon, director of the Sundre Petroleum Operators Group, are worried about alerts in rural areas where cell phones may not be in service. McCrimmon told Alberta Oil Magazine a wireless alert system could be one tool, “but it certainly can’t be the only tool that is utilized because they would be missing the mark with a pretty significant number of areas without cell service.”

November 9, 2016

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