Government responds after 3-hour Amber Alert delay on mobile phones

An Amber Alert issued in Saskatchewan Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CST did not reach its intended audience due to technical issues.

Province says texting issue with National Public Alerting System to blame

Saskatchewan RCMP Cpl. Rob King said the Amber Alert mobile notification did not come out as quickly as police would have liked. The province says it will work to prevent the issue from happening again. (CBC)

An Amber Alert issued in Saskatchewan Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. CST did not reach its intended audience due to technical issues.

Now the government says it's working to make sure that doesn't happen again.

The RCMP initiated the Amber Alert in response to a six-year-old girl who was in an SUV when it was stolen in North Battleford. She was found safe the next morning.

Police say the vehicle was reported stolen around 5 p.m. CST Sunday.

Saskatchewan RCMP sent the Amber Alert around 7:31 p.m. Shortly thereafter, it was broadcast throughout the province on radio and television using the National Public Alerting System.

A statement provided by the Ministry of Government Relations says when provincial officials were notified of a technical issue, they manually sent the alert through the SaskAlert mobile App at 8:30 p.m. 

However, if you do not have the SaskAlert App, a push notification is also supposed to appear on mobile devices, such as cellphones. But that notification did not appear on mobile devices until 10:30 p.m. — three hours after the RCMP issued its initial alert.

No one from the provincial government was made available for an interview.

The Ministry of Government Relations, which is responsible for emergency management, provided the following:

"The Amber Alert was also issued through wireless technology but it did not go through due to a text issue related to the National Public Alerting System. The problem was addressed and the alert was issued through the National Public Alerting System around 10:30 p.m."

"The province is working with the National Public Alerting System to prevent this issue from happening in the future."

In April, the National Public Alerting System, also known as Alert Ready, began sending wireless notifications in emergency situations.

CBC was provided a statement from Martin Bélanger, director of public alerting at Pelmorex, the company that built and operates Alert Ready.

He said the RCMP alert was successfully entered and distributed through the National Alert Aggregation & Dissemination (NAAD) System to TV, radio and wireless service providers at 7:31 p.m.

"The wireless service providers experienced an error when the alert was received at their end. The issue was escalated immediately and the NAAD System team provided support to help partners to resolve the issue. Preliminary investigation determined the issue originated in technology used by carriers to distribute alerts," Bélanger said.

The alert finally went out at 10:28 p.m.

This chart shows how public alerts are handled and how they make it from issuers to the public. (Government of Canada)

The Saskatchewan RCMP thanked the public and media for sharing the Amber Alert but acknowledged the system did not work as planned.

"We input the information into the SaskAlerts system. We noticed a short while later that it had not gone out. We did it again and the alert went out shortly after that," said RCMP Cpl. Rob King.

"Why there was a problem with it is something you're going to have to ask SaskAlerts why it didn't go out as quickly as we'd liked it."

Girl found 13 hours after SUV stolen

The six-year-old girl who was the subject of the now-cancelled Amber Alert was found just two kilometres from where she went missing the day before, RCMP said on Monday.

The six-year-old was in the back of an SUV when it was stolen from a North Battleford, Sask., strip mall around 5 p.m. CST on Sunday.

Police located the girl more than 13 hours later, around 6:45 a.m. Monday, in the stolen SUV, which had been abandoned in an industrial area of the city.

The girl was located in the stolen SUV by RCMP just before 7 a.m. on Monday in an industrial area two kilometres from where she went missing. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The girl was taken to hospital and released.

The girl's mother thanked those who helped look for her daughter.

"[She] is safe at home sleeping soundly, peacefully, surrounded by all the love in the world," she posted on Facebook.

"The relief is indescribable."

The girl has autism and epilepsy, and requires medication every 12 hours, the RCMP said in an earlier update. She is also non-verbal. Missing a dose could lead to extreme medical distress. It's unclear if she had access to her medication.

The vehicle was parked just off the road in some bushes and had been spotted by employees of a nearby business, King said.

The Amber Alert was later expanded to Alberta and Manitoba before it was cancelled Monday morning.


Adam Hunter


Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for more than 14 years. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him:


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