Mobile phones stay silent as test of new emergency alert system in Quebec fails

A nationwide emergency public alert system set to start in Quebec this morning didn’t reach residents, meaning they never got that alarm or vibration from their cellphones or other electronic devices.

CRTC spokesperson Patricia Valladao says the problem did not originate with cellphone service providers — it appears the snafu occurred between emergency management in Quebec and Pelmorex Corp., which operates the system.

Valladao said that in a code sequence that was entered manually by a Pelmorex employee, a space was included incorrectly, which prevented the system from sending the message in Quebec through wireless phones. ​

Depending on the settings, users with compatible devices — such as smartphones and tablets connected to an LTE network — were supposed to hear a tone similar to an ambulance alarm or feel a vibration for eight seconds starting at 9:55 a.m. ET in Quebec, with other areas of the country to follow today or Wednesday. But there was nothing but silence.

The test in Ontario was still planned for 1:55 p.m., while tests in most of the rest of Canada, except for Nunavut, will take place on Wednesday. 

“As soon as they realized there was a misconfiguration, it was quickly corrected, and the one in Ontario is supposed to go at 1:55 p.m.,” Valladao said.

She said at least it was just a test and not a real emergency.

System provider working to fix problem

Pelmorex, the system provider in charge of managing the wireless device alerts, is working to correct the problem as soon as possible, said Thomas Blanchet, spokesperson for the Quebec Public Security Ministry.

“That’s why we do testing, to make sure that the connection is OK.”

The tests are being conducted after the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ordered wireless providers to implement the system to warn of imminent safety concerns such as tornadoes, floods, Amber Alerts or terror threats.

Radio and TV stations ran the tests successfully, according Blanchet.

By noon, some Quebecers had received a test alert through either The Weather Network or Météomédia apps.

But Blanchet said those alerts have been in place for app users since 2015, and that Monday’s wireless testing is different.

He said it’s unclear whether the alert will be launched again once the problem is fixed, but ensured the “population would be notified” if that were to be the case.

Here’s the full list of alert tests across Canada. All times are local: 


  • Quebec 9:55 a.m.
  • Ontario 1:55 p.m.


  • Yukon 1:30 p.m.
  • Northwest Territories 1:55 p.m.
  • Alberta 1:55 p.m.
  • British Columbia 1:55 p.m.
  • Saskatchewan 1:55 p.m.
  • Manitoba 1:55 p.m.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 1:55 p.m.
  • Nova Scotia 1:55 p.m.
  • Prince Edward Island 1:55 p.m.
  • New Brunswick 6:55 p.m.

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