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Wireless emergency alerts to go live in B.C.

iPhone
The B.C. government is now rolling out message alerts for cellphones. (via Pixabay)

Starting this Friday, April 6, emergency alerts in B.C. will be sent to compatible wireless devices, such as smartphones, to ensure more people have the information they need to act quickly in an emergency.

They will be broadcast automatically at no cost to the user. Wireless-compatibility information is available online at alertready.ca.

"Accurate and timely information in an emergency situation can save lives and livelihoods, and we need to deploy every tool available to alert people of potential public safety threats," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

"As technology improves, we are always looking for new ways to broaden our reach and reduce the time it takes to communicate critical safety information. Wireless alerts will help us achieve both of those objectives."

Wireless alerts will be publicly tested for the first time in B.C. on May 9, at 1:55 p.m., alongside routine TV and radio tests.

Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is the sole agency responsible for issuing emergency notifications on the Alert Ready system in the province, and will initially issue such alerts for tsunami threats only.

The provincial government is considering expanding the use of Alert Ready beyond tsunamis to include other hazards and emergencies in the future.

Wireless alerts will contain instructions for a safe response, and all British Columbians are urged to abide by these instructions without delay.

In order to receive alerts, mobile phones must be connected to a cellular network, be alert-compatible and within the alert area.

The National Public Alerting System (NPAS), publicly branded as Alert Ready, is a collaborative initiative between federal-provincial-territorial governments and industry partners. It provides a standard alerting capability to rapidly warn the public of imminent or unfolding hazards to life.

Currently, in accordance with a 2014 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) decision, all radio and television broadcasters in Canada are mandated to broadcast public alerts. On April 6, 2017, the CRTC mandated wireless service providers to be capable of sending wireless public alerts in Canada by April 6, 2018.

For tips on how to prepare an emergency plan and what to include in an emergency kit, visit Gov.BC.ca/PreparedBC.

– Alan Campbell, Richmond News