Wireless Public Alerting Service —
Frequently Asked Questions

Posted on May 5, 2016

What is the objective of the WPAS project?

The main objectives of the WPAS project consist of:

  • producing a pilot WPAS implemented in the Darlington and Pickering nuclear facilities on Lake Ontario in Durham Region;
  • establishing technical standards and specifications;
  • defining a concept of operation;
  • providing recommendations for national rollout; and
  • offering other important technology and service‑related knowledge and practices.
What is the ultimate goal of the WPAS project?

The ultimate goal is to extend the reach of the NPAS to include mobile devices. The results of the WPAS project will provide important technology, knowledge and readiness to support broad wireless industry participation in and government policy decisions on the eventual implementation of WPAS across Canada.

Why are we piloting the WPAS?

The current NPAS disseminates emergency alerts mainly through broadcasting channels such as radio and television. People who have no access to radio and television at the time the alerts are being broadcasted may not receive the alerts.

Over 83% of Canadians own a mobile device and 66% own a smartphone. The ability to alert Canadians through their cell phones will ensure that a larger number of Canadians are notified of threat‑to‑life dangers in their area.

What does the pilot WPAS do?

WPAS broadcasts text‑like emergency warning messages sent by alert authorities, in both English and French, to mobile phones within a defined geographic area. Cellular phones that are WPAS compatible will receive these messages.

What are the special features in the WPAS‑enabled mobile phones?

WPAS‑enabled mobile phones will be everyday smart phones with standardized WPAS features added by manufacturers. When powered on within a targeted geographic area, WPAS‑enabled mobile phones will display a bilingual Emergency Alerting banner, sound a specific alert tone and vibrate in a specific cadence that are unique to emergency public alerting in Canada.

WPAS mobile phone standards comply with both international and North American standards. WPAS Mobile Devices Behaviour Specifications are recognized by the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) and have become a North American standard through ATIS (ATIS-0700021). The standards are designed to allow Canadian WPAS mobile devices to receive U.S. Wireless Emergency Alert messages while roaming in the U.S., and allow U.S. Wireless Emergency AlertFootnote 1 capable mobile devices to receive WPAS messages while roaming in Canada.

How can the public participate in the WPAS pilot tests?

Community members in the Durham Region will have the opportunity to participate in WPAS pilot tests through Ontario Power Generation or the Regional Municipality of Durham. Pilot tests will take place during the April ‑ September 2016 time frame and will target geographic areas within Durham Region. Interested community members should contact officials with Ontario Power Generation or the Regional Municipality of Durham. For more information about the tests, please visit the Emergency Management Ontario website.

I live in the pilot test area. Will my phone receive WPAS messages during the testing phase?

Some smart phones on the market today may receive WPAS test messages if they are equipped with the necessary technical features, are powered on and are in the test zone when tests are being conducted. Test messages will self‑identify and include the phrases "This is a Wireless Public Alert Test only. No action is required." For more information about the tests, please visit the Emergency Management Ontario website.

Who are the partners in the WPAS project?

The three‑year project is being managed by ISED. Project partners are Public Safety Canada, Ontario Power Generation, Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Ontario, Bell Mobility, Pelmorex Communications Inc. and Mobility & Wireless Solutions.

The project team is consulting with numerous stakeholders, including the wireless industry, through the Canadian Radio‑television and Telecommunications Commission's Interconnection Steering Committee, F/P/T alerting authorities, and other public alerting stakeholders to ensure the acceptance of the technical standards and specifications as well as to meet the requirements defined by F/P/T alerting authorities for wireless public alerting.

What is the role of ISED in the project?

ISED is the federal department responsible for developing and administering domestic regulations, procedures and standards that govern Canada's radio frequency spectrum. ISED is the project champion responsible for all aspects of the three‑year project in close collaboration with DRDC's Centre for Security Science and Public Safety Canada. ISED is also the project manager responsible for keeping the project on budget, on schedule and within scope.

What is the role of Public Safety Canada?

Public Safety Canada is responsible for coordinating F/P/T government engagement and consultation with respect to wireless public alerting. Public Safety Canada facilitated the development of a consolidated list of F/P/T requirements for wireless public alerting in early 2013, with the assistance of ISED.

How is this work being funded?

The WPAS project is funded by the CSSP, a federal program led by DRDC's Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada. This program aims to create opportunities for science and technology experts to work with specialists from various public safety and national security fields to develop knowledge and tools, and provide advice that contributes to safeguarding Canadian lives and livelihood. The project received additional funding from Ontario Power Generation for the public awareness campaign, as well as significant in‑kind contributions from partners.

Who manages the CSSP?

The CSSP is a federal program led by DRDC's Centre for Security Science, in partnership with Public Safety Canada. DRDC is Canada's leader in defence and security science and technology. As an agency of the Department of National Defence (DND), DRDC provides DND and other government departments, as well as the public safety and national security communities, with the knowledge and technologies needed to defend and protect Canada's interests at home and abroad.

How was the project selected?

The project was selected through a competitive Call for Proposals (CFP) process funded through the CSSP. The CSSP CFP seeks innovative science and technology project proposals that address identified public safety and security knowledge and capability priorities. The CFP process is managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (formerly Public Works and Government Services Canada) on behalf of DRDC's Centre for Security Science which is responsible for managing the CSSP.

How much funding is allocated to this project?

The CSSP is investing $1.5 million over three years (2015-2017). In‑kind contributions from project partners are estimated at more than $1.9 million.

What is an in‑kind contribution?

'In‑kind contributions' are non‑cash contributions that are essential to support research and development projects. The salary of full time staff or the use of equipment, laboratory space and existing infrastructure are examples of in‑kind contributions.

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