New Brunswick

Alert Ready set to let smartphone users know of emergencies

Alert Ready, the national emergency system that already sends alerts to television and radio, will soon be sending them to mobile phones.

Alert Ready will start sending emergency alerts to cellphones by text

The national system for letting the public know about major emergencies has been updated to alert people by text. (CBC)

If there were an emergency, where would you look for information these days?

A smartphone, perhaps.

Alert Ready, the national system that already sends alerts to television and radio, partnered with federal, provincial, and territorial emergency services to enable a text alert in the event of emergencies. 

It was developed to adapt to the changing ways people get their information, said Greg MacCallum, director of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. 

Alerts will be vetted

"They might not immediately have access to a television or radio," MacCallum said. 

Starting Friday, the system will alert people to a weather, fire, biological, hazardous, environmental, civil or terrorist event.

MacCallum said each message goes through a serious vetting. He said a senior person within EMO will have to vet the message before it can be sent out. 

"It is very carefully vetted before it's released," he said. 

How does it work? 

The system works through cellphone towers. 

If you are in the area of crisis, an alert will be sent from the towers to cellphones in the area. Cellphone users will hear a distinct tone followed by a text message.

If you aren't in the area at the time of the alert or if your phone is off, you won't get the message. 

But there are some necessary requirements for the service. The phone has to be a smartphone, compatible with wireless public alerting, and connected to an LTE network when the message is sent.

The service is available through 17 different cellphone companies, including major providers such as Bell, Telus and Rogers, who were given a year to prepare. 

MacCallum said the first test of the system will be on May 9. 

With files from Rachel Cave