A smartphone and a television receive visual and audio alerts to test Alert Ready, a national public alert system Monday, May 7, 2018 in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Test of new emergency alert system on mobile phones in Quebec fails

A nationwide emergency public alert system test failed to send alerts to mobile phone customers in Quebec, while the alerts on radio and television went off without a glitch, Canada’s telecommunications regulator said Monday.

The tests are being conducted after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ordered wireless providers to implement the system to warn of imminent safety concerns such as tornadoes, floods, alerts on missing children or terror threats.

Users with compatible mobile devices connected to an LTE (long-term evolution) network in the targeted provinces and territory were supposed to hear a tone similar to an ambulance alarm or feel a vibration for eight seconds starting at 9:55 a.m. ET in Quebec, with other areas of the country to follow today or Wednesday.

But the mobile users in Quebec didn’t hear a peep.

CRTC spokesperson Patricia Valladao told Radio Canada International the glitch did not originate with cellphone service providers but rather between emergency management in Quebec, which generates the content of alerts, and Pelmorex Corp., a company that operates the distribution system.

Valladao said that Pelmorex informed the CRTC that the glitch was apparently caused by an extra space in a code sequence that was entered manually by a Pelmorex employee, which prevented the system from sending the message in Quebec through wireless phones. ​

“A space incorrectly included in the coding prevented the Alert Ready System from sending the Quebec test message to compatible wireless devices earlier this morning,” said a statement from Pelmorex.

The Quebec test did broadcast successfully on TV and radio, the statement said.

“The purpose of a test alert is to comprehensively verify all system components so that in the case of a real threat to life situation, there is confidence the emergency alerts will be distributed successfully,” the statement said. “The misconfiguration was quickly corrected.”

The test in Ontario went on at 1:55 p.m., and while some mobile phone users reported having received an alert, others said their phone remained silent throughout the test.

Pelmorex said it’s still trying to figure out what happened in Ontario.

Tests in most of the rest of Canada, except for Nunavut, will take place on Wednesday.

Here’s the full list of alert tests across Canada. All times are local:


  • Quebec 9:55 a.m.
  • Ontario 1:55 p.m.


  • Yukon 1:30 p.m.
  • Northwest Territories 1:55 p.m.
  • Alberta 1:55 p.m.
  • British Columbia 1:55 p.m.
  • Saskatchewan 1:55 p.m.
  • Manitoba 1:55 p.m.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 1:55 p.m.
  • Nova Scotia 1:55 p.m.
  • Prince Edward Island 1:55 p.m.
  • New Brunswick 6:55 p.m.

With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press

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