Why do we conduct tests of public emergency alert systems?

Why test systems?

The Alert Ready Wireless tests in May 2018 received a lot of attention, do you know why the Canadian National Public Alerting System (NPAS) conducts these tests?

The National Public Alerting System requires the participation of many different partners, and it is these tests that allow all the partners to ensure their respective systems are working properly before a real event happens. A test starts out with someone from a government agency, usually the provincial emergency management office, who has been vetted and granted permission to issue NPAS alerts. Creating this test alert allows this individual the opportunity to practice their alert issuing skills on a regular basis, as it may be months or even years between real events that take place.

This test alert then goes to the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System (NAADS) for distribution to all of the NPAS partners. The distribution of the alert is tested; did it get sent to everyone, were they able to decipher the message or were there any errors, did the audio files associated with the alert get received as well, and so on. NPAS has many different partners who distribute alerts; broadcasters, websites, mobile apps, etc. Wireless service providers joined NPAS this year, connecting the many thousands of cell towers across the entire country to the national system. As expected with such a complex deployment of equipment, there were some issues that arose, but by working through the tests, the Wireless providers were able to correct many of these before a real alert needs to be issued.

Radio and Television broadcasters also have specialized equipment in their broadcasting stations which receive this test alert. The test can then confirm that their equipment is configured properly, that the output audio levels and on-screen display are good, and the alert looks and sounds like its supposed to on-air. There are thousands of broadcaster partners across the country, as you can see from this map provided by the CRTC and the tests are vital to ensuring everything works as expected.

Take care. Be prepared.

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