Albertans inundated with emergency alert tests Wednesday

According to Alberta's emergency alert archive, a total of nine alerts were issued Wednesday — seven at 1:55 p.m. and two more at 2:01 p.m.

An Alberta emergency alert test scheduled for Wednesday afternoon to coincide with the start of the province’s wildfire season has caused major interruptions to cellphone users.

According to Alberta’s emergency alert archive, a total of nine alerts were issued Wednesday — seven at 1:55 p.m. and two more at 2:01 p.m.

Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis told Postmedia later Wednesday afternoon the department is still investigating what caused the “glitch,” reflecting that it’s better such a problem happened with a test than a real alert.

“The only thing I can say is that you know, this is not one of your normal tests,” he said. “We are transitioning to a national alerting system. So this is really about making sure that Albertans are going to be safe in the event of an emergency in the future.”

In a further statement Wednesday evening, Ellis said partners in the alerting system are working to identify and fix the issue that led to the stream of notifications.

“Incidents like the one that occurred are exactly why we conduct testing on the alert system. We need to ensure that the system is working as intended during an actual emergency to protect Albertans,” he said, adding he recognizes the “disruption” that was caused.

Ellis had announced the Alberta Emergency Alert system test Tuesday, saying that the mock alert would be transmitted “over television, radio, websites, social media, the Alberta Emergency Alert mobile app, and directly to Albertans via compatible cellphones.”

Nationwide tests take place in May and November each year, but Alberta’s was timed for the start of the wildfire season, which begins March 1.

Alberta’s largest wildfires historically have occurred in May, a critical time period where it tends to be dry, with leaves on trees and bushes not yet greening up.

The emergency alert tests, said Ellis, ensure there are no system issues and help Albertans to consider “their own readiness to respond to an unexpected event like a wildfire.”

The public is reminded that the cellphone alert only works if the receiving cellphone or mobile app is compatible on the LTE 4G network, turned on and connected to wi-fi. If the cellphone is set to silent, the emergency alert will be displayed but the alert will not sound.

Those who choose to download the Alberta Emergency Alert app can also receive messages about life-threatening emergencies like tornadoes, wildfires, floods or Amber Alerts.

“I also encourage Albertans to visit to learn more about how to prepare for any emergency. Resources are available in 10 different languages to make this information more accessible,” added Ellis.

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