Manitoba

Emergency alerts will reach more Manitobans next spring: Minister

Manitoba's infrastructure minister says more people will receive emergency push alerts on their mobile phones starting next spring once new phones are sold.

Questions about Alert Ready system raised after many failed to get Amber Alert

Above, a file photo shows a test of an emergency alert. Despite testing of the system earlier this year, not everyone got a message on their phone when an Amber Alert was issued in Manitoba just after midnight Monday. (Warren Kay/CBC)

Manitoba's infrastructure minister says more people will be able to receive emergency push alerts on their mobile phones starting next spring.

A province-wide Amber Alert was issued in Manitoba around 12:30 a.m. Monday after a six-year-old Saskatchewan girl living with autism was abducted.

Saskatchewan RCMP decided to expand the alert to both Manitoba and Alberta because the stolen SUV the girl was in had enough gas to possibly make it to either province.

Many people in Manitoba on several different carriers with a variety in levels of service including LTE coverage said they either got the alert, didn't get it at all or got it multiple times.

Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler said that's because the alert wouldn't have shown up on phones that weren't on an LTE network and instead were using 3G or 4G service.

"The technology just isn't there yet and we have to have people upgrade their technology," he said.

Manitoba Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler says more people will be able to get emergency push alerts on their phones next Spring. (Megan Goddard/Radio-Canada)

The minister said come next spring, it's his understanding it won't matter if a customer has 3G or 4G service because new phones will be sold that will allow emergency messages to get to them regardless of the cellular network.

"The new phones will not block it anymore. You'll get it either way."

Some old phones still won't get alerts

Schuler said the push alert service is crucial in emergencies, especially for people who don't pay attention to or have access to traditional media.

He cautioned people with very old phones will still have to upgrade if they want to get the messages, which are only sent out in severe emergencies like when a tornado is coming.

The Alert Ready program is a national warning system that sends out emergency notices from government agencies to broadcasters.

Earlier this year, cellphone carriers were required to start sending emergency alerts from the system to their customers. Cell phones play a loud alarm and display a pop-up push alert when an emergency notification is sent. Governments and emergency officials can choose who gets the alerts.

Schuler said in the case of the Amber Alert, it was appropriate to send it out to everyone in Manitoba given it was unknown where the vehicle with the child was going. The child was found safe Monday morning.

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