Wireless Public Alerting FAQ

Information on the Alert Ready wireless public alerting system

Alert Ready

Who sends emergency alerts?

Federal, provincial and territorial governments are responsible for issuing emergency alerts. Federally, emergency alerts are issued most frequently by Environment and Climate Change Canada. Each provincial or territorial government decides who will have the authority to issue alerts within their jurisdictions. For example, emergency alerts could be issued by provincial or territorial emergency management offices or in some cases by municipal emergency management offices or local police and fire departments. TELUS and other carriers broadcast emergency alerts received from alerting authorities directly to compatible wireless devices connected to LTE networks.

What types of emergency alerts are issued by Alert Ready?

The Alert Ready system allows alerting authorities from federal, provincial and territorial governments to issue a wide range of public safety messages. However, TELUS and other carriers will only receive and relay messages that are issued for threat-to-life situations. Government officials developed a specific list of alert types that are considered a threat-to-life and should be broadcasted immediately. These “Broadcast Immediately” emergency alerts have the highest level of severity, urgency and certainty. For a full list, visit the Alert Types section of the website.

Will emergency alerts be for my specific area?

Yes. The alerting authority determines what areas are affected by an incident, weather or environmental situation and uses a standard system that will typically correspond with municipal, regional or provincial boundaries. Emergency alerts intended for wireless devices are issued to a defined geographic area, which can be as small as a few city blocks, so that only people in the defined area receive the emergency alerts. Compatible wireless devices in the targeted area will receive the emergency alerts within seconds of being issued, provided the devices are powered on and connected to the LTE cellular network.

Are these emergency alerts sent as a text message?

No. While the emergency alert may look like a text message it is not a text message. Emergency alerts are sent by Cell Broadcast distribution. Cell Broadcast is a mobile technology that allows messages to be broadcast to all compatible wireless devices within a designated geographical area. Cell Broadcast can be compared to radio broadcast. Radio towers broadcast music to people in defined geographic areas as long as the individuals can pick-up the broadcast signal and have their radios turned on. Similarly, Cell Broadcast messages are delivered simultaneously to those compatible wireless devices that are within range of cell towers and antennas in the designated area.

Receiving Wireless Public Alerts

Will I receive an emergency alert if my device is connected to Wi-Fi?

While on Wi-Fi, if the compatible wireless device can still communicate with the LTE cellular network, it will receive emergency alerts. If the wireless device is not within reach of the LTE cellular network (or is set to Wi-Fi only) it will not receive an emergency alert.

Will I be charged if I receive an emergency alert on my wireless device if I don’t have unlimited texting or data within my mobile plan?

Wireless alerts are sent on a specific cellular channel that is separate from normal text and data traffic. While the alerts may look like text messages, they are not text messages and are not billed like text messages nor do they count towards data usage.

Can I opt out of receiving emergency alerts on my wireless device?

No. Emergency alerts received on your compatible wireless device are relevant to you and require immediate attention and government regulations mandate that all compatible wireless devices receive all relevant alerts. Unlike radio and television broadcasting, which often has broad areas of coverage; wireless public alerting is geo-targeted and can be very specific to a limited area of coverage. As a result, if an emergency alert reaches your wireless device, you are located in an area where there is an imminent danger.

Will I receive emergency alerts on my wireless device if I’m travelling to or from another province or jurisdiction within Canada?

Yes. Emergency alerts are issued to a defined geographic area, such that only people in the defined area will receive the emergency alerts. If you are travelling and happen to be in another province when an emergency alert is issued, your compatible wireless device will receive the emergency alert within seconds of being issued, provided your phone is powered on and connected to the LTE cellular network.

Will I receive emergency alerts on my wireless device relevant to where I live while I am travelling away from home?

No. If you are travelling, you will only receive emergency alerts that occur where you are.
Canadians can keep track of emergency alerts occurring in specific areas (e.g. where they or other family members live) through a number of available apps and online services.

Will I still receive emergency alerts if wireless device towers are affected by the situation?

Emergency alerts are broadcast from cellular towers and antennas within the area specified by the alert issuer. Compatible wireless devices connected to the specified towers/antennas will receive the emergency alert. The towers/antennas therefore must be operational to send emergency alerts. If you are in an affected area but your wireless device is unable to connect to any towers/antennas because of the situation, you will not receive the emergency alert on your wireless device.

Will emergency alerts interrupt or end a voice-call or another activity in progress?

Emergency alerts will not end a voice call or data session in progress. If you are on a VoLTE call when the emergency alert is received, you will hear an alert tone, similar to call waiting. The alert will be displayed on your device, after your call has ended. If you are on a call while connected to the 3G network, you will not receive the alert while you are on the call. You will receive the emergency alert after your call has ended, if it the alert is still active and your device is connected to the LTE network. If you are using data, the emergency alert will briefly interrupt your data session by the emergency alert appearing on your screen, but your data session will continue.

Will I receive an emergency alert if my wireless device is off or set to silent?

A compatible wireless device that is turned off, or is in Airplane Mode, will not display an emergency alert. If the emergency alert is still active when the wireless device is powered on or out of Airplane Mode and the user is still in the alert area, the wireless device will then display the alert.

A compatible wireless device that is set to silent will display an emergency alert, but you might not hear the emergency alert sound. The emergency alert sound will usually play at whatever the current volume setting is on the wireless device, so if your wireless device is set to silent, no sound will accompany the emergency alert message. However, this behaviour can differ depending on your wireless device and in some instances the alert sound may override your user settings. Please consult your device manufacturer for more device-specific information.

If my wireless device is off for an extended period of time, will the emergency alert appear once I turn my phone back on?

If the emergency alert is still active when the compatible wireless device is turned on and you are within the emergency alert area, the emergency alert will be displayed. If the emergency alert is no longer active or if you have travelled outside of the alert area, it will not be displayed.

Can alerts be saved on my phone?

Some smartphones allow you to save and retrieve emergency alerts received on your device after you acknowledge the alert. To find out if your device is capable to save emergency alert and for more information we recommend that you contact your device manufacturer.

Will alerts sent to my wireless device be used to gather data about me?

No. Emergency alerts are sent using Cell Broadcast distribution. Cell Broadcast can only transmit information to your wireless device. This means that no data is being gathered about you, your wireless device or your location when emergency alerts are sent out.

Device compatibility

Will all wireless devices receive emergency alerts?

No. In order for emergency alerts to be received on a wireless device three conditions must be met. The wireless device must be:
  1. An LTE-device (LTE is commonly referred to as “4G LTE”);
  2. Wireless public alerting (WPA)-compatible (list of WPA compatible smartphones); and
  3. Connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued, or joins the network while the alert is still active.

What does it mean to have a wireless device that is WPA-compatible?

A wireless device that is WPA-compatible is (1) an LTE-device, that (2) has special software embedded in it that allows for the alert message to be received in the standard Alert Ready format (look, sound and vibration). The common Alert Ready format ensures the alert is recognizable and provides confirmation that it is issued by a legitimate source. Here is a list of all WPA compatible smartphones that are currently offered in the TELUS mobility shop.

Are other mobile devices (e.g. tablets) capable of receiving emergency alerts?

TELUS and other carriers are required to distribute emergency alerts via the LTE networks to compatible smartphones. Additional wireless devices – such as tablets and wearable accessories (e.g. smartwatches) – may be capable, from a technical perspective, to receive some form of the message, but it will not necessarily be received on the device in the common Alert Ready format.

Will alerts be played on my connected Bluetooth or wearable device or on my in-car Bluetooth device?

There are numerous companion and Bluetooth devices on the market. Testing shows that some, but not all, connected devices will play the alerts along with the smartphone. To find out if your device is capable to receive emergency alert and for more information we recommend that you contact your device manufacturer.

Taking action

What should I do if I receive a test alert on my wireless device?

Test alert messages will be identified as such. These messages are intended to “test” the functionality of the system and inform consumer of wireless emergency alerts and do not require the consumer to take steps to secure their safety.

You may be required to acknowledge receipt of the emergency alert in order to allow for your wireless device to resume normal functioning. In the event that you cannot acknowledge the alert, the alert sound and vibration will continue for 8 seconds. Depending on your specific wireless device, additional reminders may occur.

What should I do if I receive an emergency alert on my wireless device?

Upon receiving the emergency alert it is important to take action safely. Stop what you are doing when it is safe to do so and read the emergency alert. Government officials will include, within the emergency alert, the information you need for any action you need to take. This could include but is not limited to: limit unnecessary travel, evacuate the areas, seek shelter, etc.

What should I do if I receive an emergency alert on my wireless device while driving?

It is important to take action safely, especially if the emergency alert is received while operating a vehicle. If you are driving, it is important to remain calm and pull over at your earliest opportunity to view the emergency alert. Also note that some connected Bluetooth car stereos will play and magnify the alert sound. Make sure you do not panic and take action safely.

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