On January 13, Global News reported on Canada’s emergency alert system just 24 hours after an emergency alert was mistakenly sent out about a nuclear ‘incident’ at the Pickering Nuclear Generation Station.
Prof. Jack Rozdilsky, from the Disaster and Emergency Management program, defended the alert system against mounting skepticism from the community.
“From a public safety perspective, less damage can potentially be done by alerting people over a wide area where a situation may develop,” said Rozdilsky.
“This is a relatively new phenomenon, that everyone has a device in their hands, that we can send out communication at this mass level,” Rozdilsky said. “What I think we’re seeing here is the system being worked out, adjustments being made as we go. The incident on Sunday illustrates that these systems are there, lurking in the background all the time.”
While an investigation will ultimately determine the type of error, Prof. Rozdilsky believes that the technology performed as it should — it sent out a direct alert to the masses about a possible emergency.
“It’s important to separate the technology of the delivery system from the organizational factors that go into the decisions that are made and how the messages are sent out,” Rozdilsky told Global News. “Thirdly, is the actual content of the message and whether the content is accurately reflecting the situation.”
As an example, he pointed to a similar error in Hawaii in 2018 when officials mistakenly sent out an alert about an incoming ballistic missile, which turned out to be a false alarm.
“That was a mistake by an operator, but at the same time, the investigation showed that the way the menus were designed in the system could’ve been done better to assist the operator in making selections,” he said. “It could be a combination of human and technology.”