An emergency alert expert says Canada has serious problems with its company-led model, which is based on “discriminatory” technology that differs from alarm systems around the world, to create one that will be controlled by the federal government.
Michael Helous performed on Wednesday Ongoing public poll In a mass shooting in New Scotland on April 18, 2020, he said he had expressed his concerns to Canada years before the tragedy.
Hallowes is an independent government consultant on the design and delivery of public warning systems, as it has assisted in the construction and operation of the Australian Alert Program.
“It goes back to the basics, if I can be so bold, to do it right for the future,” Helus said.
Pelmorex, currently based in Ontario, is owned by the Canadian Alert Ready software system and operates on behalf of the federal government.
Helous said this approach, where the alert system provider also masters it, gives Pelmorex officials a lot of power, as they can choose how they want to handle alarms or any system upgrades.
“If it’s going to affect the bottom line that it requires investment to upgrade technology to keep up with capacity requirements, they can choose to say no,” Helus said.
“It’s very strange in Canada that you have put a commercial supplier in charge.”
In most other jurisdictions around the world, Halloween said the government had instructed that any renewal would be a condition of the alarm provider’s license.
This means that the federal minister և their office can be held accountable for their service, Helus said. At the next level of the circle will be front-line groups, such as emergency management offices, firefighters, police, who send out alarms, and then, in Helos’ words, are “deliberately” suppliers and regulators on this ladder.
In Canada, the system is regulated by the Telecommunications Commission of Canada (CRTC), which as of 2018 requires the participation of all wireless telephone, radio and television providers.
Canadian alerts, according to the commission documents, are now being broadcast simultaneously on TV, radio, Weather Network և LTE devices such as smartphones, but only on 4G networks.
Helos said this is a significant issue as many older phones will not be able to access 4G.
He said alarms should be available to 95 percent of the population, but Canada was far behind. When the first Alert Ready tests were conducted in 2018, Halloween said that only 35% of cell phones received them.
“All my warnings are based on the results of these tests, that it does not reach the vast majority, because the choice of Canadian technology was discriminatory,” he said.
“It does not provide access or accessibility for the vast majority of cell phone users. And that’s the way it is today. ”
Instead, most countries use SMS text messaging for their alerts, Helos said, which can be sent to any cell phone connected to a network in a specific area.
He said the method also allows users on the other end, such as police or ambulance offices, to collect a “heat map” of cell phone points at random to protect privacy so they can track citizens evacuating in real time. unsafe area.
The “SMS” option is a key advantage in situations of active shooters, when people can hide from a dangerous person with a gun, said Helus. If someone’s phone is silent, the alarm will not ignore their settings չի will not make a loud noise.
Canadians can not turn off the alarms
He said this was a devastating lesson to be learned after that 2011 Norwegian shootingwhere dozens of teenagers killed by a gunman on a remote island were leaving with the sound of their cell phones.
Australia և Other countries have systems that do not ignore user settings, said Hello, while Canada does not. He now says that anyone hiding from a shooter in Canada should turn off their phone completely, refuse the opportunity to call for help to make sure their whereabouts are not revealed.
In February 2015, Halloween said he attended an alert conference in Alberta where he described best practices such as SMS. He talked about the need to have guidelines on what a signaling system should achieve, and then “find” technology to deliver it.
However, he said Canada had done the opposite.
“What I found was that CRTC, the Canadian Center for Defense Research and Development, was telling wireless service providers to sell their technology for broadcasting,” Helus said.
When Halloween said it had asked for an assessment of what was behind the decision, he was “strongly told” that the alarms would be upgraded to what technology could provide.
RCMP discussed issuing a warning in Nova Scotia on 19 April multiple calls from the Regional Emergency Management Agency (EMO); but in the end it did not happen.
At the time of the shooting, all agencies had to go through the EMO to request an alert, which would then be released by the state agency. The investigation this week heard that the RCMP had been offered direct access to the alert system in 2016 և 2017 by Halifax և Cape Breton District Police, but was denied.
Now the RCMP and the Halifax Regional Police can issue their own alerts, which, according to Halloween, should be not just for all police forces but for first responders like fire departments.
In Australia, he said, there are 38 organizations that have immediate access to the alert, including eight police forces.
Helous said Australia’s alarm system had been simplified to include just eight minutes of standard 911 calls or an emergency alert.
“I’m always worried about something called a stroke of precision, where you wait, you wait for the perfect situation, you let the public know what they need to know right now,” Helus said.
“If I misunderstand, I will tell you that I misunderstood, I will correct, but waiting for this perfection of information, it does not happen.”
Whether Hallus said he had heard various concerns in Canada that police wanted to avoid calls because 911 dispatch centers would be flooded or people might get tired of calls, he never saw any evidence that this was an international issue.
Instead of asking for an EMO alert, the RCMP took to Twitter late in the evening of April 18 to complain about a firearm in Portapik. They again took to Twitter at around 8am the next morning to report that it was an active shooting incident.
The RCMP did not disclose the fact that the gunman, Gabriel Wortman, was driving a fake police car until 10:17 a.m. April 19. A picture of the car was posted on Twitter.
Asked about using social media as an emergency communication tool, Hello said it leaves out “a lot of people” who may not have the right app, track the right accounts or actively check their phones at a crucial time.
Sandra McCallock of Patterson Law, whose firm represents many of the families of NS mass shooting victims, reiterated her clients’ long-held view that the April 19 warning would keep their loved ones “inside” the house without crossing paths with them. shooter
He said that with clear instructions, the alert would not only reach more Nova Scotians than a social media post, but would properly carry the gravity of the situation.
The warning would allow those on social media to “distinguish this horrific event from all the other content seen in the past,” McCallock said.
The investigation heard that the Canadian Police Chiefs Association passed a resolution in June 2021, responding to many of Halloween’s concerns by calling for a review of the country’s public alarm system.
The resolution also called for the police association to be actively involved in the review, with the aim of extending its alert powers to all first responding public safety agencies.
It noted that Pelmorex’s license expires in August 2023, and that Canada’s public safety should “immediately discontinue” any pending purchases around the system.
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