Reviewing public alerts

A late evening Amber Alert on Thursday of last week triggered online discussion and calls to 9-1-1 emergency service bureaus, arguing about the appropriateness of the use of the National Public Alert System.

Many commentators have written articles to admonish those who complained about being awoken by the alert system (such as here and here).

There is little doubt that the circumstances warranted the use of the Public Alert system. It was completely wrong to tie up resources at 9-1-1 emergency service bureaus to complain about interrupted sleep. It is completely reasonable to ask if there can be improvements in the manner in which it was deployed.

I mused on Friday about whether Canada should have a multi-agency “formal process to review each use of the National Public Alert System, to help develop best practices”:

For example, according to the Toronto Star, Peel Regional Police asked the Ontario Provincial Police to issue the alert earlier in the evening, but the alert didn’t go out until after 11pm. Can steps to be taken to improve this time lag? Apparently last week’s message was received by some people in Manitoba. Should it have been distributed to adjacent provinces? Was it translated into French?

I don’t question that the system was deployed in this instance. Shouldn’t we continually be examining how the system was deployed, to ensure that it will always be used in the best possible manner?

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