When I heard that Canada was going to spend some cash instituting an emergency alert system that would span all communication systems (including cable television and cellular networks) 2 years ago, I was impressed. Actually, I found myself a bit surprised that such a system was not already in place (an asinine proposition in the American section of Tornado Ally). But in an age of changing and increasingly erratic climate behaviour, better late than never.
In the following years, the system has gradually come online. The first terrifying warning I ever received was over the cable tv system, notifying people of a tornado in a fairly closeby town. In the years after, the LTE emergency alert system has gradually come online. Problems were apparent in early tests (including an entire cell carrier not relaying the alert. Mine, coincidently). But as new technology goes, most of the parties involved seemed to correct these issues.
To the point that a new problem with the Emergency alerting system soon became apparent.
First off, I will address the tone of the last piece. While I am not apologetic about it, this was written from the perspective of persecution. It seemed that you could not go anywhere in the realm of media without seeing criticism of this usage of the system being deemed as selfish (at best). Don’t get me wrong, thousands of idiots virtue signalling in the name of children is not annoying to me.
If anything, it’s hilarious. Every time an Amber Alerts goes out anytime between 11pm and 5am, they are there. To educate us knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing freaks that children are more important than our beauty sleep. And they all do it just because it’s the right thing to do, and not for any other reasons relating to positive social standing.
Yeah . . . I can’t say it with a straight face either. What would social media be without its bandwagon jumpers . . .
Either way, the annoying (well, infuriating) thing about these bandwagon virtue signalers is their short-sightedness. I expect nothing less from the social media posting public, but I would have hoped that people of authority would have a better head on their shoulders.
But first of all, we have to explore the Canadian emergency alerting system and how it differs from the system in place in the US (and possibly other nations).
This is a screen capture taken on my tablet, which was manufactured to the American EAS system specifications. As you can see, you have control over every type of alert (excluding presidential). Thus if you want to exclude amber alerts but still be warned of other threats, you can.
In Canada, however, all of these settings are redundant. Because for whatever reason (cost savings? compatibility?) the entire system was designed to send everything at the presidential level.
I like the implementation of the American EAS because it takes into account a serious flaw which seems to have been overlooked by Canadian authorities. That flaw is alert fatigue.
Though this issue seems to be most pronounced in the health care sector, it can come up in any context in which a person constantly deals with many alerts, particularly if many tend to be false alarms. From big industrial accidents to plane crashes, alert fatigue is a problem that many industries are still looking for ways to deal with.
While one would not think that this would be applicable to a public alerting system, the problem lies in the implementation of the 2 systems.
In the US, this is not a problem because the end user has full control of what they see. Not the case in Canada.
Which is why the authorities NEED to exercise care in how they make use of this system. And if the authorities at the lower level can’t get past this short shortsightedness, then maybe there should be someone higher up the Alert Ready chain that DOES.
Have some sense about broadcasting these things between 11pm and 5am. Because if they become persistent enough to annoy people, they will disable them in 1 of 3 ways:
1.) shut off LTE connection at night (or permanently)
2.) Run airplane mode at night
3.) turn off the device at night
Keep in mind, people are already doing this. As one can see if you check out Reddit and other discussions of this topic. NOT a great thing to hear as we go into tornado season (and overall, a more chaotic atmospheric condition overall).
Poor implementation and short-sighted use of this extremely valuable system have the very real potential of eroding what value it brings to the table. In the past, alerting people at night while they sleep was a HUGE challenge (just hope they hear the siren, and hope it goes off, to begin with).
Now, we have the siren on the bedside table. But only so long as it doesn’t frivolously go off too many times.
And so I have gone through it all again. The implementation of Alert Ready was idiotic, to begin with. Given this, the only solution to a very real problem is either narrowly targeted distribution (distribute to cells near highways likely pertinent to the case, not entire provinces), or not using the cell side altogether. Given the number of people that no longer listen to terrestrial radio in vehicles (and that most vehicles contain at least 1 LTE enabled smartphone) I highly prefer the former.
Though it looks like we STILL have some work to do in this area as well.
To close this, I don’t know why Canada didn’t just implement the Alert Ready mobile system in the same way that EAS is deployed stateside. Because if current trends (in terms of how the Alert Ready network is being utilized) continue, the systems overall value as a life-saving resource may well erode. Unfortunately, this will only become apparent after it’s too late.