Not everyone’s phone got that storm alarm. It is not clear why

While some praise the use of an emergency alert to warn people of the deadly storm that hit southern Ontario and western Quebec last weekend, other cell phone users say they did not receive the message and want to know why.

Luc Fournier said he did not receive the alarm on Saturday and was nevertheless alerted by Amber Alert on his phone early Wednesday morning.

“Something didn’t work,” he said of Saturday’s alarm.

Fournier and his family were at their cottage at Lac-des-Plages, Ke., About 125 miles northeast of downtown Ottawa, when the storm hit about 4 pm ET.

Half an hour earlier, one of Fournier’s sons had left to go fishing and climb a rock wall in a place with no cell service about 10 miles from the cottage, he said.

After the storm, Fournier took 30 to 40 minutes for a chainsaw through three trees blocking the road to his son’s truck, he said.

While his son was safe, “[he] wouldn’t go fishing ”if they got the alarm, Fournier said.

“And we would be much more careful to make sure everything is safe.”

A felled tree caused this damage to a shed on Luc Fournier’s cottage in western Quebec during last weekend’s intense storm. (courtesy of Luc Fournier)

An uprooted tree struck a small shed on Fournier’s property and rested on water lines feeding the cottage until Fournier hired someone to remove the tree on Wednesday.

“We haven’t seen a hydro crew yet,” he said.

Older phones may not send a warning

A total of six emergency warnings have sent people’s phones ringing in Ontario since late Saturday morning, while even more were released as the storm continued through Quebec, said Ken Macdonald, executive director of national programs for Environment and Climate Change Canada.

The warnings were also on people’s TVs and radios.

The first of the phone calls for the Ottawa-Gatineau area was issued at 3:18 pm as the storm line – known as derecho “It was west of Perth, Ont.,” Macdonald said.

The alert is first handed over to cable TV companies, radio stations and wireless phone service providers “and then they take it and analyze it to see if it applies to the area in question,” Macdonald said. “Then they put it on their systems.”

Each carrier could respond at a slightly different rate, which helps explain why not everyone in the same area received the alert at the same time, he added.

On why some people have not received the alert at all, Macdonald said the system is not designed for older phones that do not work under LTE wireless or a newer wireless network (5G).

“They should all be triggering that warning tone,” Macdonald said of compatible phones. “It simply came to our notice then [phone]. ”

Check your phone’s compatibility

When reached for comment, both Bell and Rogers showed online checklists that customers can consult to see if their cell phone model is compatible with emergency alerts.

Fournier said he has an iPhone 13 that is compatible.

Bell’s guide points out that devices set to silent or “do not disturb” may result in hidden alerts with other notifications, while Rogers asks Android users to make sure the “Cell / Mobile broadcast” option is turned on in their phone settings.

Bell and Rogers each referred additional questions to Pelmorex, the Ontario-based company that owns Canada’s Alert Ready software system. Pelmorex operates the system on behalf of the federal government and says it “worked as intended” on Saturday.

Compatible phones must be “equipped with the latest version of [their] operating system, “the company also said in an email to CBC News.

“In addition to wireless device capabilities, the user must also be in the geographic area where the alert is issued.”

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