sowny.net | The Southern Ontario/WNY Radio-TV Forum


You are not logged in. Would you like to login or register?

June 17, 2015 11:16 am  #1


Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

At approx. 10:58 AM Wednesday, a "test" of the emergency alert system went out over radio stations in the GTA - and quite possibly across the province. The problem: stations were told the test would be at 2:58 PM, and the the thing just took over the airwaves, interrupting music, talk, news, interviews and whatever else was going on at the moment. Pelmorex is supposed to give some notice, especially when a non-emergency disruption occurs.   

Although I wasn't listening to AM 640 at the time, I heard Mike Stafford complaining that the "brains" (deliberately in quotes) behind this system don't appear to be broadcasters and simply don't seem to have a handle on it. Considering how much power those behind the alerts have - taking every radio station off the air without their knowledge or permission - they'd better get a handle on this thing soon.

Because for now, it looks like those in charge of informing us of an emerging emergency don't have a clue what they're doing. 

Last edited by RadioActive (June 17, 2015 11:26 am)

 

June 17, 2015 11:26 am  #2


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

As part of this "test', Pelmorex also had an alert on the Weather Network website. I have the Weather Network pinned as a bookmark on the browser....  noticed that it was blinking RED, seems to be a feature of their alert system.

I liked the old American EBS better  "This is a test. for the next 60 seconds.....  This is only a test".

Last edited by Glen Warren (June 17, 2015 11:27 am)

 

June 17, 2015 11:35 am  #3


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

I heard it London although I was listening to CBC Radio 1 which really originates in Toronto.  I believe it said it was an Ontario alert so it was probably heard across the province.

 

June 18, 2015 6:32 am  #4


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

It was a province wide test and stations were told the the test would go at 2:58PM GMT. That = 10:58AM EST.

 

June 18, 2015 8:25 am  #5


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

Waste of money

 

June 18, 2015 8:34 am  #6


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

That's funny .  

SmfP wrote:

It was a province wide test and stations were told the the test would go at 2:58PM GMT. That = 10:58AM EST.

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 18, 2015 8:35 am  #7


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

grilled.cheese wrote:

Waste of money

I'm sure a free phone app would reach more people, significantly better geographic targeting and not be as disruptive especially during false alarms.

Some might call that the free app you can download from the Weather network if you're honestly concerned about breaking weather news.

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 18, 2015 9:47 am  #8


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

With more and more stations being automated all the time and what happened the last time a Tornado hit Vaughan where very few media even said a word until AFTER the event.... I think this system is long over due.

We can no longer trust media outlets in Canada to break in on a moments notice to alert people.

Tell the people of Goderich, Vaughan, Barrie and other areas in Ontario who have had Tornados in recent years that this system is not need!   Just because Toronto doesn't need it directly normally, doesn't mean the rest of the Province agrees.

The system has bugs and they clearly need fixed, but once they are, atleast we will have a system that people will be aware of things they should be made aware.

 

 

June 18, 2015 11:08 am  #9


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

Thanks SmfP I wondered if the time was GMT thanks for the confirmation.

 

June 18, 2015 11:46 am  #10


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

I heard it while driving on the 401 on the way to Woodstock as I was scanning stations...I also dig this alert system....sure it's quirky but they'll get the bugs out...I bet it'll provide some valuable information one day to those that need it...I know if I was on-air when this went off I wouldn't mind at all...if it can help listeners with a real emergency then go for it...and depending on the alert it could turn the course/topic of a program on a dime.

 

June 18, 2015 11:49 am  #11


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

ig wrote:

grilled.cheese wrote:

Waste of money

I'm sure a free phone app would reach more people, significantly better geographic targeting and not be as disruptive especially during false alarms.

Some might call that the free app you can download from the Weather network if you're honestly concerned about breaking weather news.

 

I fully agree.  The people that are concerened about tornados and weather disasters will already be aware of the issue and most likely be up to date on the weather.

I believe the warning system was designed for Amber Alerts, which are broadcast during every news cast anyway

 

June 19, 2015 2:01 pm  #12


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

Well the bugs might need to be ironed out, but one thing the test proved ... the message does get out on the radio when someone pushes the button.It is heard and one day when the real thing happens, it will save lives which is what this is all about. John Hinnen and I pushed the Ontario government to come up with a process of alerting the public when bad things happen ... so you won't hear me complaining about these alerts interrupting someone's show even for a test.

As for hosts who complain about the test or that they should be notified before it interrupts their show, that just proves the disconnect some hosts have about their role in radio. It's not about THEM ... it's about the listeners and if something is happening that might cause harm to people in their audience they need to be told, even if it interrupts their show.

While running CFRB I had to push hard for hosts to promote weather alerts from Environment Canada. The rule was read the alert every 15 minutes. And I had to push even harder to have hosts switch away from their topics whenever there was severe weather in the summer time. To open the lines and ask listeners to call in to tell them what was happening outside where they were.

For some reason radio does that with severe winter storms but is reluctant when it's pouring rain and flooding people's homes.

John Tory's first afternoon drive shift as a fill in host was the day a tornado touched down in north Toronto and elsewhere in Southern Ontario. It started out as a severe thunderstorm weather alert and he put his topic on hold to take calls from listeners about their experience with the bad weather. 

As luck would have it, he was talking to a man in north Toronto who was describing how it was raining so hard he had to slow down because visibillity was limited when all of a sudden the man says a funnel cloud has just touched down across the street and describes the scene. 

If we didn't have that policy about opening the lines during severe weather, we would never have had that call on the air and dramatic radio that followed. CFRB listeners had been trained that when bad weather happens to call in and tell their story. It gave us the edge over other stations and John Tory ended  up with his first radio award on his first day as a swing announcer.



 

 

June 19, 2015 2:12 pm  #13


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

kowchmedia wrote:

As for hosts who complain about the test or that they should be notified before it interrupts their show, that just proves the disconnect some hosts have about their role in radio. It's not about THEM ... it's about the listeners and if something is happening that might cause harm to people in their audience they need to be told, even if it interrupts their show.

Because shows operate in a 7 second delay, the operators, hosts, everyone and their mother listens to the bus feed leaving the station, not the off-air feed from the transmitter.  The Alert unit is in the transmitter audio chain, so it cuts the feed going to the transmitter and replaces it with the alert.  Subsequently nobody on-air knows the alert happened.   No matter how good people are, they can't react to something they can't hear happening and aren't told in advance will take place.  A simple text alert or e-mail to a central address reiterating the alert would save a ton of problems, and also let the hosts talk about what just happened with some details.  Now they have to run into the newsroom say.  "did you hear that" or "is it on the wire yet" or worse, wait for someone to transcribe it.

It's an ill thought out system, and I still don't think it should be able to willy nilly interrupt a news or news/talk program.  I understand for music, but the CRTC needs to make it a COL that on news/talk stations these alerts are broadcast within 2 or 3 minutes of the station recieving them.




 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 19, 2015 2:21 pm  #14


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

I remember at Yonge and St. Clair when Toronto experienced a bit of an earthquake, because the studios were floating, and designed like a brick shithouse, nobody knew anything had happened.  It wasn't till the phones lit up with people asking "did you feel that" that the host twigged that something had happened.

Zip forward to the 'great' blackout of 2003.  The entire Eastern Seaboard lost power, but because the studios had excellent backup systems in-place, the lights slightly flickered, and everything continued as normal.

Now in 2015, there could be an emergency alert going out over the radio station, and let's say it's during a time period where the newsroom isn't staffed, or the news person has gone on a break.  The host and operator are working on-air, unaware that their broadcast was just interrupted about some impending disaster that was about to hit the building where the station is housed, if they're in an interview, the call in lines could be blocked.  So till someone called, nobody would be any the wiser till they were dead, and didn't care anyway.

Or a worse case scenario..  operator at 3am in the building alone.  Has no idea he's in danger till the building is down around his ears.

Stupid.

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

June 19, 2015 2:52 pm  #15


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

I disagree about giving Newstalk programming an exception ... a delay of two to three minutes can make the difference between life and death and I don't believe the delay would always be limited to that short period of time.  The good news is that if the station is on auto-pilot the alert will still be broadcast because it cuts into all programming including taped or syndicated shows.

I also don't understand why it's ok for the music station DJ not to know there is an alert ... shouldn't music stations also be concerned their listeners may be in harms way and want hosts to talk about it between songs?

If it is a technology problem, than it needs a technical fix.Could the engineers not install a speaker box in master control that captures the transmitter feed used by the alert system or come up with the technolgoy that notifies master control when an alert interrupts the flow to the transmitter. 

That said, I do agree that some redundancy should be included in the alert process ... The process needs fixing ... a text alert or email should be sent first followed by the audio. CBS News sends out an alert that a bulletin is coming in 20 seconds before they break in with a bulletin ... this gave us time to decide if CFRB wanted to air the bulletin or not. 

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the alert people advise stations there would be a test at a certain time. Was the test early or did the announcers not be told by whoever got the email that there would be a test? I was also under the impression that radio groups like the OAB and others had some input on how to make this work. Why didn't they know the problems it would cause if the feed went straight to the transmitter and couldn't be heard by on air staff or in master control? 

 

Last edited by kowchmedia (June 19, 2015 2:55 pm)

 

June 19, 2015 5:54 pm  #16


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

Hey Steve, didn't a threat to 2 St. Clair come in and everybody was on the sidewalk but you didn't tell the talent (Oakley)?  He mentioned that the other day.

 

June 20, 2015 9:53 am  #17


Re: Another Emergency Alert Screw-Up

I don't believe that one for a second.  Unless it was around July 2003, in which case it makes complete sense .


Miker wrote:

Hey Steve, didn't a threat to 2 St. Clair come in and everybody was on the sidewalk but you didn't tell the talent (Oakley)? He mentioned that the other day.

 


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.