What’s the deal with Alert Ready?

The emergency alerts you get on your phone are facing fierce criticism, and not just because they frequently scare the living daylights out of you with that blaring siren sound.

Driving the news: With four months still left on the calendar, a record 993 emergency alerts have been sent this year through Canada’s emergency messaging system, Alert Ready

How does Alert Ready work, anyway? 

Alert Ready is under the purview of the CRTC, the federal telecoms regulator, which contracts cable company Pelmorex to operate the system. Earlier this month, the two renewed their deal for another three years.  

  • Under this structure, Pelmorex controls the tech behind the system, and trains authorized users like police or fire departments on how to send out alerts.
  • The system is funded by revenues from both the CRTC and Pelmorex, both of which make their money largely from the cable TV industry which, notably, is in decline

Why it matters: With alerts on the rise, Alert Ready has been heavily criticized for hiccups. In just the past two months, the system left out vital location information in a shelter-in-place alert and suffered a two-hour delay alerting about a flood that ended up killing four people. 

  • In March, the Mass Casualty Commission called for changes to the system, noting how police didn’t know how to issue alerts during the 2020 Nova Scotia attacks.
  • The CRTC is well aware of these concerns but said it was too busy dealing with Bill C-11 to carry out hearings or consultations before renewing the Pelmorex deal. 

What’s next: A CRTC spokesperson told The Globe and Mail a review of the deal will come “in due course,” which sounds like another way of saying, “not anytime soon.” In the meantime, please stay alert (no pun intended) and stay safe.—QH