I was alert ready, too bad they weren’t

I didn’t get the emergency alert and I’m OK with that.

The much-hyped Alert Ready system that is said to give Canadians instant notifications in the event of an emergency couldn’t relay a test message to most mobile-device users.

After the test failed in Quebec and Ontario earlier in the week, I was interested to see if any tweaks would be made as the rest of the country was tested days later.

I can’t say I know much about technology but I didn’t feel confident that changes would be made to ensure everyone had a smooth roll out in the days following. Naturally, the company tasked with launching the service blamed human error and one slight problem in the coding of the system. Of course they did. Believable? Maybe at first. When it didn’t work for the rest of Canada, uh, yeah, no.

I assembled a group of colleagues to see how things would play out in Manitoba. We had Samsung, Apple, BlackBerry and other product lines on each of the major wireless networks — Telus, BellMTS and Rogers — and lined up our phones on a table to see what would happen at 1:55 p.m., the scheduled test time.

As the messages were deployed to some phones, others stayed silent — meaning they didn’t have an audible alert, they didn’t vibrate – they did nothing. In fact, in Manitoba, 40 per cent of the users didn’t get the message on Wednesday, according to media reports.

I had two BlackBerrys (don’t judge) in the test. The one on the Rogers network did not receive anything, while one on internal Wi-Fi with no cellular signal got it through The Weather Network app. Other people had the same results.

It was interesting to hear conversation after the test of people worried about not receiving the message. Like I said at the top of this column, I am OK with not getting it. Seriously.

I understand that the purpose is to send emergency messages, but based on the errors, false alarms and general problems I have seen in other places (remember when Hawaii had a missile headed straight toward it?) I don’t need the hassle.

My comment was, “I have been a cellphone user for over 15 years and have survived this long without an immediate notification to my phone.” It’s true. I got through last Tuesday without the emergency alert service on my phone. I got through last Sunday without the emergency alert service on my phone. I didn’t feel less safe this Wednesday or Thursday without the emergency alert service on my phone.

True, there can be some life-saving information relayed but, again, I have lived 35 years with basic notifications from people around me, the Internet and things like radio and TV.

At the same time, I wrote a book called Put Down Your Damn Phone Already so I can’t claim to be one of those people who has a phone beside me at all times. Will I have a change of heart if something happens to me and I say, “Shit, I wish I would’ve had a notice on my phone”? Perhaps. Will it be too late for me to make that proclamation? It might be.

Until then, I will take the risk of going through my day using other means of communication to get my emergency alerts.

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