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September 29, 2020 12:14 am  #1

A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

I'm guessing that one of the stories they'll be talking about on Tuesday might be people complaining (again) about an Amber Alert that went off on their cell phones after midnight. But that's not what got my attention. I happened to be watching CFTO's late local news when it cut off the sound and aired on TV around 11:45 PM.

The thing was completely incomprehensible, with the male robotic voice pronouncing lbs. As L-B-S instead of pounds and garbling most of the message in a way that made it almost useless. Even the visual red banner that went across the screen had weird artifacts in it, that made reading the message a challenge. I thought they'd fixed this thing. I wonder why this one was so hard to understand?


September 29, 2020 12:22 am  #2

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

I received the alert on my cell phone, but not on my tv. Had TSN on for the end of the Chiefs/Ravens MNF game.


September 29, 2020 12:50 am  #3

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

Didn't get the amber alert on my phone tonight which was weird, I usually do. There'll be the usual greek chorus meets the peanut gallery conversation Tuesday morning on the radio shows about the goofballs that complained about being woken up, and a short discussion on how the amber alerts are used, the range they cover etc.
Glad there was a positive resolution this time.


September 29, 2020 12:55 am  #4

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

I got the same notice on my phone sitting in barrie.  was watching the cup celebration online with bell fibe, and no cut-ins.  based on the alert text, i have no idea where the alert originated or why i should care here because it didn't provide a location.  what does WRPS mean?  i infer Waterloo Regional Police??? maybe maybe tell me that in the alert.  I'll also note that the french text was cut off after a couple of words....

I suspect there will be another ear shattering ring sometime in the next couple of hours.  good idea, poor execution.


September 29, 2020 2:56 am  #5

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

from what i've seen, most of these alerts involve a husband, wife and a custody dispute. in my opinion, it could lead to a "cry wolf" scenario. this could lead to a disaster when a child is truly kidnapped.


September 29, 2020 7:45 am  #6

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

I got a new phone last week (my previous phone was so old I never received amber alerts on it).

The sound, just as I was getting ready for bed around 11:30 scared the bejeezus out of me and the text was almost undecipherable. It must have worked though because I read on this morning that the two young girls have been found and a woman arrested in Kitchener. 

Annoying sound but a positive outcome in just a couple of hours... I'll take it


September 29, 2020 8:08 am  #7

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

Indeed. To be clear, I wasn't complaining about the Alert, just that I couldn't understand a word of it over the air. It wasn't until my phone went off that I was able to see what it was really about. 

     Thread Starter

September 29, 2020 3:48 pm  #8

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

Anyone that complains about getting an amber alert that was issued by a police dept. for any missing child is a pure and complete POS, asshole...period.


October 1, 2020 10:04 am  #9

Re: A Completely Incomprehensible Amber Alert

Here is some info about the Canadian emergency alerting system that I thought might be of interest (and/or bedtime reading... )

The system is, of necessity, a bit of a national mish-mash of police forces, emergency services and Environment Canada.  It certainly isn't perfect given the number of people that might generate a message.   An alert can be triggered by any of these services, after going through some level of internal approval.

Pelmorex acts as the aggregator and distributor of all messages (they don't alter them, they just forward them).

Once an alert is released by one of the agencies, everything downstream is automated.

Monitoring devices in broadcast and wireless systems are constantly listening for alert messages.  It may interest you to know that there are numerous messages transmitted across the system on a daily basis.  Most tend to be weather related and broadcast systems ignore 99% of them.

There is a special signal, or flag, called the "Broadcast Immediate Parameter" embedded within each message.  If this parameter is set to "yes" then a monitoring broadcast device (usually at the radio or TV station) will immediately put the message on the air.

Messages are sent as text and are translated by text-to-voice software.  This means the text must be in a very specific format (to prevent "nine hundred and eleven verses "nine one one".  To ensure (or try to ensure) a level of commonality across radio, TV and wireless systems a "Common Look and Feel Guidance" document was created.  You can see it here:

Note the "Broadcast Immediate Parameter" in Appendix B.  This is the indicator that will trigger broadcast systems.

All messages are archived and can be viewed here:
Note: messages are in GMT time (the emergency alert sent at 11:31pm Sunday September 28 EST would be listed at 03:31 September 29).  Messages are also in an .xml format so they are very "computerish" and somewhat hard to read.

I will also note that "polygon" data is sent with the message.  This data defines the geographical area in which the message is intended.  Broadcast systems are typically configured to respond to messages targeted to their "grade B" signal coverage area.

There is separate text for broadcast and wireless. I too was confused by the "WRPS" notation in the wireless message.  The broadcast version had the full "Waterloo Regional Police Service".  Just goes to show how a minor error can generate confusion.