Wireless Public Alerting Service


Ontario Testing New Wireless Public Alerting Service

Wireless Public Alerting Service Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is the Wireless Public Alerting Service, also called WPAS? WPAS is a technology that allows emergency alerting authorities, such as the Ontario Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, the Ontario Provincial Police (for missing persons alerts), and Environment Canada (for weather alerts), to target a particular geographic area and send emergency alerts to all WPAS-compatible cell phones within that targeted area. Only those types of emergencies which are life threatening and time-sensitive will be broadcast over this medium, which could include severe weather, serious environmental or industrial incidents, and criminal emergencies.
    In these events, the alert will cause the phone to light up and display the emergency message, and will be accompanied by a unique alerting tone and vibration. It is an automatic service, therefore no subscription is required.

  2. Is WPAS available to Canadians now? No. WPAS is not yet available in Canada. The WPAS Pilot is intended to test the technology and service so that it will meet Canadians' needs when it becomes available.

  3. When will WPAS be available in Canada? The federal government, in partnership with the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, and provincial agencies are working together to move forward on making WPAS available in Canada at a later date.

  4. What is the purpose of the WPAS Pilot? We know that providing timely, relevant information during emergencies is imperative and the pilot provides the opportunity for technical testing to validate its functionality and effectiveness and ensure it satisfies Canadians' emergency public alerting needs.

  5. When and where is the WPAS Pilot happening? The WPAS Pilot testing will occur in Durham Region, just east of Toronto, between April 1 and September 30, 2016. A small number of residents and visitors in Durham Region and surrounding area may receive test messages to their mobile devices, including those who own a WPAS-enabled mobile device from outside Canada.

  6. Why were these areas chosen for testing? Regional Municipality of Durham volunteered to coordinate the WPAS Pilot in Durham Region.

  7. What should I do if I receive a WPAS test message? These messages received through the WPAS Pilot are test messages and no action is required. Messages will indicate that they are test messages only. If you are driving, do not read the test message until you are safely parked.

  8. Is a WPAS alert like a text message? WPAS alerts are different than text messages. They alert you with a unique sound, vibration and visual notification that distinguish them from text or other messages. This functionality is built in to devices by manufacturers.

  9. Is my phone equipped to receive WPAS alerts?Most cell phones in Canada are not currently WPAS-enabled because the service is not yet available in Canada. However, some newer mobile devices and those purchased in the United States may be WPAS-compatible and capable of receiving alerts, including the WPAS test messages. Results of the pilot project will provide important knowledge to support decision-making on the potential implementation of wireless public alerting in Canada.

  10. Who is funding the WPAS Pilot? The three-year WPAS Pilot project, which runs from 2014 to 2017, is supported and funded by the Canadian Safety and Security Program, a federal program led by Defence Research and Development Canada's Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada. The project is being led by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada in collaboration with Public Safety Canada, the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, Ontario Power Generation, Bell Mobility, and Pelmorex Communications Inc.

  11. Where can I get more information about WPAS? If you have a question about WPAS testing, send an email to askOFMEM@ontario.ca

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