Next tsunami alert will be on your phone

Emergency Management BC will test the new Alert Ready system on cell phones staring May 9

A new smartphone alert system being introduced by the government of B.C. is only equipped for warnings about tsunamis — but alerts about wildfires and other emergencies may soon be coming to your mobile device. That’s according to Ian Lightbody, director of projects for Emergency Management BC.

The first public test of the system is scheduled for 1:55 p.m. on Wednesday, May 9. An alert is expected to be sent to smartphones throughout the province, along with simultaneous radio and television warnings.

The test run is meant to help resolve any technical issues that may arise with the system before it is extended to include other types of emergencies, said Lightbody.

He couldn’t give an exact date about when non-tsunami emergencies would be integrated into the system, called Alert Ready, but said he’s hoping it will take place “in the next year or two.”

The system is more geographically specific than other alert systems, such as radio and television broadcasts, since warnings about actual emergencies will only go to people connected to networks in targeted areas, he said. “Only phones that are connected to those towers are alerted,” said Lightbody.

But phones will need to be connected to a cell phone tower, meaning that places without connectivity won’t benefit from the message.

Another weakness of the system is that people won’t hear the alert sound — a piercing siren — if their phone is on silent or “do not disturb” mode. And that’s a problem that will have to be solved in collaboration with phone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, he said.

You can check your phone’s compatibility at www.AlertReady.ca.

-With files from Keili Bartlett, Prince Rupert Northern View

Emergency PreparednessJennifer RiceTsunamitsunami alert

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