Didn't get the tornado emergency alert? It could be your phone

If you didn't get an emergency alert on your phone Friday, it could be because you have an older phone.

Some older phones not compatible with new emergency warning system, CRTC says

The CRTC's emergency alert system is designed to send messages to 4G LTE phones, and some older models are not compatible. (Warren Kay/CBC)

If you didn't get an emergency alert on your phone Friday, it could be because you have an older phone.

Phones, radios and televisions across the National Capital Region emitted an alert tone late Friday afternoon as several tornadoes hit the area, flattening homes and putting lives at risk.

Scott Shortliffe, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission's chief consumer officer, said the alerts were designed to work with 4G LTE phones.

"Based on the experience in other countries, we saw that this would be all the phones in the future and would cover the largest number of phones currently," Shortliffe said in an interview with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

As of next April, all phones sold in Canada will have to be 4G LTE, Shortliffe said. The CRTC explored setting up a system that would cover older generations of phones, but it turned out to be much more complicated.

"It would have meant constructing an entirely different system based on different technology."

Right now, he said, 4G LTE networks cover 98.5 per cent of the country.

Check compatibility online 

Anyone who did not receive the alert can check if their phone is compatible on the emergency alert system's website

Those who believe their phone should have received the alert, but didn't, can contact the CRTC.

So far, the CRTC is happy with how the system is working, Shortliffe said.  

"There have been more than 100 alerts or messages over the system covering tornadoes, flood warnings, forest fires across Canada," he said. "We have seen the system is being used in many different parts of Canada and appears to be successful in reaching Canadians in danger."

Why didn't everyone receive an alert on their cell phone about the tornadoes? 8:19

CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning