Wireless Emergency Alerting Frequently Asked Questions

WPA is sending a Broadcast Immediate (BI) alert to a compatible wireless device through the Alert Ready system. These BI alerts would be the same as those alerts issued by radio, cable, satellite television and websites during emergencies, but are available via your compatible wireless device.

Since April 6, 2018, wireless service providers (WSPs) are able to issue BI alerts to compatible wireless devices when received from alerting authorities. The BI alerts on wireless devices will warn the public about the danger to life safety and property and how to take appropriate action.

In order for a wireless device to be capable of receiving an alert three conditions must be met. The wireless device must be:

  • a wireless public alerting (WPA) compatible device, like a smartphone, capable of connecting to an LTE network (LTE is commonly referred to as “4G LTE”); and
  • Equipped with the latest version of its operating software; and
  • Connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued or joins the network while the alert is still active.

It is important to know that not all Manitobans will be able to receive emergency alerts on their wireless devices. For example, older cell phones that operate exclusively on non-LTE networks will not get an alert. You can check with your provider to find out whether you are on an LTE network and have a compatible device, or visit Alert Ready for more information on compatible devices. The following are the Manitoba wireless service providers:

Not all consumers will receive an alert from their carrier on their wireless device. This may occur for a variety of reasons including device compatibility, whether the device was connected to an LTE network at the time the alert was issued, cell tower coverage and device software and settings. Questions about handset alert reception are best addressed by your wireless service provider, who is responsible for pushing these alerts to their customers.

There is no sign-up or opt-in required. Emergency alerts will be automatically sent through the broadcast channels, and to your compatible wireless device.

In order for a wireless device to be capable of receiving an alert three conditions must be met. The wireless device must be:

  • a wireless public alerting (WPA) compatible device, like a smartphone, capable of connecting to an LTE network (LTE is commonly referred to as “4G LTE”); and
  • equipped with the latest version of its operating software; and
  • connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued or joins the network while the alert is still active.
It is important to know that not all Manitobans will be able to receive emergency alerts on their wireless devices. Individuals who live in rural and remote communities who do not have access to all three of the requirements when the emergency alert is issued will not receive the wireless emergency alert. However, alerts will still be sent through the existing alerting channels including radio, cable and satellite television, and websites.

It is important that you first verify that you did not receive an alert by checking your device’s “notification” folder. In some instances you might not see or notice the alert even though your device has received it. The alert might be “hidden” with other notifications.

If you didn’t receive an alert on your device it is important to do several things, including checking the phone’s compatibility with your service provider, as well as ensuring that you have updated the software. There are many factors that will impact your ability to receive the alert including your location, or whether you are connected to the LTE network at the time of the alert distribution.

Emergency alerts are sent via 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 is designed for simultaneous message delivery to multiple users in a specified area, and is not affected by network congestion because it uses a dedicated part of the network, separate from that used for traditional voice and data traffic. Therefore, if you are in Manitoba in an affected area and have a compatible wireless device, you would receive the emergency alert. If you are in another Province or Territory in an affected area and have a compatible wireless device, you would receive the emergency alert for the affected area. This is a national alerting system and no matter where you are located in Canada you should receive the same standard emergency alert that will be specific to the location you are in.

Devices that are acquired in other countries and brought into Canada may not comply with Canada’s wireless equipment standards. These devices may be on the list of wireless emergency alerting compatible devices on the wireless service provider’s website without being compatible as it may not fully support the software upgrades, or may not support or display an alert in the correct format, or in the language it is sent.

In cases where you purchased your device outside of Canada, you should verify the compatibility with the device manufacture directly.

On compatible wireless devices, the emergency alert will begin with a distinct sound and known as the Canadian Alert Attention Signal. Hear the Alert Attention Signal.

The device will also vibrate and then the visual Emergency Alert banner will display, followed by a wireless emergency alert message text.

The emergency alert storage location is dependent on many factors and the type of handset you may have. The majority of users have the emergency alert stored as a notification on the wireless device. For example, this can be viewed again by pulling down on the top of the iPhone screen to view all current notifications until they are cleared. Other compatible devices such as androids have stored the message similar to an SMS. Questions about handset alert reception and storage are best addressed by your wireless service provider, who is responsible for pushing these alerts to their customers.

There is no sign-up or opt-in required. Emergency alerts will be automatically sent through broadcast channels, and to compatible wireless devices.

  • In order for a wireless device to be capable of receiving an alert three conditions must be met. The wireless device must be:
    • A wireless public alerting (WPA) compatible device, like a smartphone, capable of connecting to an LTE network (LTE is commonly referred to as “4G LTE”); and
    • Equipped with the latest version of its operating software; and
    • Connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued or joins the network while the alert is still active.

There is no sign-up or opt-in required. Emergency alerts will be automatically sent through the broadcast channels such as television and radio, as well as compatible LTE-connected wireless device.You cannot opt out of receiving threat-to-life emergency alerts.

The Canadian-Radio television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) currently requires that 50 per cent of new devices available for sale in Canada must be compatible with Alert Ready. This requirement increases to 100 per cent by April 2019. Over time, more devices will become compatible and more Manitobans will be able to receive emergency alerts on their wireless devices.

Yes, wireless emegency alerting does not require the location feature to be turned on. As soon as a compatible wireless device is in range of the cell tower where a BI alert is in effect, the alert will be sent to the compatible wireless device.

Cell Broadcast is a mobile technology that allows messages to be broadcast to all compatible wireless devices within a designated geographical area. Cell Broadcast is designed for simultaneous message delivery to multiple users in a specified area, and is not affected by network congestion because it uses a dedicated part of the network, separate from that used for traditional voice and data traffic.

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. Cell Broadcast messages similarly are delivered to those compatible wireless devices that are within range of cell towers and antennas in the designated area. Location services do not have to be enabled on your wireless device to be able to receive alerts.

LTE is the current wireless network technology in Canada, with more than 98% of Canadians having access to LTE service **. LTE is a standardized technology that will carry forward into the future. A modern network is needed to ensure future improvements to wireless public alerting as technology advances. ** Source: CRTC Communications Monitoring Report 2017.

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

Devices that are Wi-Fi only will not receive alerts.

No, currently phone settings will be respected. Under normal circumstances, the alert tone and vibration will be activated on receipt of the BI alert. However, if the phone is set to silent, then the alert would be displayed but there would be no tone or vibration.

If you receive an emergency alert while operating a vehicle, it is important to remain calm and safely pull off the roadway at your earliest opportunity to view the emergency alert. In Manitoba, it is prohibited to use hand-held electronic communication devices such as smart phones and cell phones while driving. Visit Manitoba Infrastructure or Manitoba Public Insurance to find more information on the law, penalties, and the dangers of distracted driving.

Wireless emergency alerts use an international standard. The broadcast channel used in the United States is called “Presidential Alert”. Governments and private sector partners have worked with Canadian wireless service providers to use the term “EMERGENCY ALERT / ALERTE D’URGENCE”, as identified in version 2.0 of the National Public Alerting System Common Look and Feel Guidance, published on March 29, 2018. However, some phones pre-date this guidance, or were either purchased outside of Canada or manufactured to be compatible with the U.S. Wireless Emergency Alerts system. In these instances, those devices will use the American international standard and will display “Presidential Alert”, or another non-Canadian headline banner.

For more information about your specific device, please contact your wireless provider.

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