Comparison of U.S. and Canadian Alert/Warning Systems

The Diva spends a lot of time trying to understand the Canadian system of EM and how it differs from the U.S. system.

This news article is quite concerning, if accurate: From the Montreal Gazetter: Opinion: Disasters happen. Americans get warned. Canadians, not so much.

I would be interested in hearing from some Canadian readers.


One thought on “Comparison of U.S. and Canadian Alert/Warning Systems

  1. Reply from a reader in Ontario:
    One of the best and worst things we did in emergency management is to place responsibility on the lower tiers. I so strongly believe that it is indeed a primarily individual responsibility for EM within their own lives (and I extend this to include a Personal COOP plan for the household – in a different venue I’m happy to share my research in this).

    Local governments arguably understand their people better than the federal government who needs to see the birds eye of all peoples in the dominion and cannot possibly be expected to understand how one local town works. So it makes perfect sense to have the responsibility for EM placed on local (and some regional) governments. But here is where a plan on paper begins to unravel.

    First, a huge piece of our landscape that is not under the control and care of a registered municipality, and some of these areas are pretty populated. These people understand they don’t have a fire department of their own (and in some cases no MOU with town) any may only have drive by policing every so often. But what they are missing is the mandate of a municipality to provide emergency awareness and public information on local hazards. Now I want to argue that people living off the grid in these communities are very self sufficient, but we can’t plan for that assumption and if their whole homes and neighbourhoods were damaged or destroyed I fear huge costs and repercussions. There is no notification or alert system in unincorporated territories.

    Second, there is a silo effect between municipalities and at times obvious and implied conflict between municipalities, especially between the “have” and “have not” cities. It leaves some communities very unprepared. The silo effect reduces the ability to understand regional resources and at times the ability to get resources where they are needed.

    Communication is always a difficult thing. Because alert notification is part of the municipal requirement, there is a wide difference in how communications are delivered and to whom.We are trying, with a new emergency bandwidth for Canadian emergency services and management and a working group tirelessly reviewing after action reports in attempt to resolve issues. But the fact is we don’t talk.An interesting case is a 1999 highway accident in Middlesex County, Ontario which resulted in a public and coroners inquest leading to strong recommendations for interoperability of communications. However, when I retired from full time EMS in 2011 we still couldn’t talk to the community next door.

    So we still don’t have a standard of practice for shared communications. We do have some movement, particularly on the front of weather hazards with the public release of ECALERTME By Environment Canada. This system sends out weather warnings for both summer and winter warnings and can be drilled down to one community or several regions. Other systems are used (my community still has sirens although we are debating if their use should be exclusively for the two nuclear stations or for all emergencies) but not with any consistency.

    I would like to see the federal public safety folks step up with a common and interoperable system that is multi faceted. I want to get warnings for where I live, work, and may travel. And I want the warnings to look and feel the same. Unfortunately this requires people to work together in FPT coordination that rarely results in something real.No offense intended to those working in federal public safety, but I don’t see any real concrete output in communications infrastructure or standard messaging support.

    This is my Ontario experience. It will be interesting to hear from others in different provinces to see if the experience is the same…


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