Digital alert system hard to decipher: critics

Alberta new emergency alert system is facing criticism from some people who say it is too hard to understand.

Alberta's new emergency alert system is facing criticism from some people who say it’s too hard to understand.

Phased implementation of Alberta's new emergency notification system began on June 28. (Government of Alberta)
The province introduced the Alberta Emergency Alert (AEA) system in June. It uses digital technology — including social media sites — to notify people about natural disasters, severe weather hazards or possible child abductions.

But the computerized voice that delivered a recent alert about a missing child was too hard to decipher, according to Brian Pshyk, who works at Mount Royal University’s production department.

Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau — who heard the alert on his own car radio — said his department is working to make the messages clearer.   

"There's no doubt it's a little bit of a staccato voice. But typically with alerts we expect people to pay a little bit more attention than just background music or background sounds," he said.

Goudreau said it was decided to use a digitized voice because it’s quicker than recording a real person.

"We'll keep on working on improving the tone, the pitch of the automated voices," he said.

Pskyk said the warning system sounds like a computer spelling game he had in the 1970s.

"There is better software that translates text to speech a whole lot better," Pshyk said.