Québec Alert Ready

About Québec Alert Ready

Description of the Québec Alert Ready system

Québec Alert Ready broadcasts warning messages on television, the radio and your mobile phone. These emergency alert messages are disruptive and interrupt the television shows or radio content being aired in the regions concerned.

Warning messages can concern various types of events, among them:

  • natural disasters (e.g., tornado, forest fire);
  • disappearances (e.g., Amber alert);
  • dangerous situations posing a risk to the population (e.g., armed individual).

Messages can be broadcast on a province-wide basis or limited to a specific region or area.

Emergency alerts will only be broadcast once, unless an update must be broadcast to share important information.

Example of a warning message

Telecommunication service providers must first issue a warning noise to announce the public broadcast of an emergency alert. An audio message with details of the warning is then broadcast.

Listen to an example of an audio message.

In Québec, alerts are broadcast in Canada’s two official languages, first in French, then in English.

Whenever they can, telecommunication companies must post a “visual” emergency warning in the form of a full-screen broadcast on a red background or as a red scrolling band. The text must be white and the letters large enough to be easily read.

Example of a warning message on a full-screen red background:

Aperçu d'un message d'alerte

In the event of technical or technological limitations, the audio or visual components of a message could differ from the examples provided.

Roles and responsibilities associated with the transmission of emergency warning messages

Canada’s public warning system, Alert Ready/En Alerte, allows various partners and government organizations to broadcast warning messages on a nationwide basis. This system is the result of a pancanadian initiative spearheaded by provincial and territorial organizations responsible for emergency measures, federal government departments and certain telecommunications and broadcasting companies.

In Québec, where the system’s name was changed to Québec Alert Ready/Québec En Alerte , the only two entities authorized to use the system to broadcast warning messages are the Ministère de la Sécurité publique (MSP) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

The alerts broadcast by the MSP are sent independently or at the request of local organizations with the necessary authorization (e.g., municipalities and police forces) and regard events that could potentially constitute a risk to the safety or lives of citizens. The alerts broadcast by ECCC, however, only concern unforeseen meteorological events.

Emergency warning messages can only be sent by persons with the necessary authorization. Each emergency alert broadcast by means of the Québec Alert Ready system has a unique digital certificate guaranteeing its authenticity and must comply with Canadian display/broadcasting standards.

The alerts broadcast are transmitted to television, radio and mobile devices without any personal information being collected. A mobile phone’s location services or geolocation function (enabled or not) has no impact on the receiving of such disruptive alerts.

Québec Alert Ready thus serves as a complement to traditional media, social media and other tools to quickly warn citizens of events that could constitute a real or imminent threat to their safety or lives.

Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

The CRTC is an independent public organization in Canada with a mandate as a regulatory agency for broadcasting and telecommunications.

By virtue of Canada's Broadcasting Distribution Regulations,reference ( 1, 2, 3 ),the CRTC requires all radio-television and telecommunications companies, along with wireless service providers, to transmit all of the alerts broadcast by Québec Alert Ready to the population. The service is an essential one, and unsubscribing is not an option.

Radio-television and telecommunications companies are responsible for ensuring their network connectivity and efficiently broadcasting the emergency warning messages issued by the MSP and ECCC.

What to do if you receive an emergency alert

It is essential to follow the instructions below whenever an emergency alert is received:

  • Stop what you are doing as quickly as possible;
  • Listen to or read the warning;
  • If a given alert applies to you or impacts the region or area you are in, follow the instructions as to what to do or which behaviours to adopt to protect yourself and limit any potentially harmful consequences of the event.

Various technological issues could result in a warning message being broadcast beyond the regions or areas concerned by an alert. It is important to carefully note the region or area referred to in a message to know whether or not the safety instructions and related behaviours apply to you.

Unsubscribing from these alerts is not possible. The emergency warning system is an essential service, required by the CRTC.

Mobile phone alerts

The alerts received on mobile devices are not delivered in the form of text messages. Rather, they are transmitted via cell broadcast, a mobile technology that allows for broadcasting messages to all compatible mobile devices within the receiving area of the cellular towers chosen to broadcast an alert. The geolocation function of your device does not come into play, hence messages will be received even if it is disabled.

Generally speaking, your device’s settings will also apply to incoming emergency warnings. For example, if your mobile telephone is in silent mode, the alert will not be accompanied by a sound. This, however, can vary depending on the device.

If you are on the phone when an emergency alert is transmitted, you will hear a sound and the warning will be displayed on your screen once you have ended your call. Such incoming alerts will not disconnect you.

If you are doing something else with your phone at the time of an incoming alert (e.g., playing a game, participating in a conference call, downloading an application), the warning will not interrupt your activity but the latter may be briefly paused while the emergency alert is displayed.

If an emergency alert is broadcast while your mobile device is shut off (closed), you will not receive a message.

However, if the alert is still ongoing when you turn on your device and if you are in the region or area concerned, the warning will be displayed at that time. If the broadcast is over or you are not in the region or area concerned, the alert will not be displayed.

Mobile phone compatibility

For a mobile device to be able to receive an alert, it must:

  • be compatible with the Wireless Public Alerting (WPA) system (as is the case for smart phones);
  • be able to connect to an LTE/5G network and be connected at the time of the emergency alert’s broadcast, or to join such a network while the alert is still ongoing.

Older mobile phones that work solely on pre-LTE networks will not receive alerts. It is important to check your device’s compatibility with your service provider. If your device was purchased outside of Canada, you may need to contact the manufacturer for further information.

Last updated: Mars 6, 2024