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September 7, 2021 9:14 pm  #1


Different weather alerts

I heard the weather alert Tuesday evening. First on 1010 then switched over to 680. Both had the same well synthesized female voice giving a short alert which referenced southwest Ontario. Then I switched to CJRT and heard a completely different message. It used a poorly synthesized male voice and came on about slightly after the other one finished. It was much longer and addressed Flesherton, Walkerton and places in Grey County. It even included advice to vacate mobile homes.
Why totally different messages?  Don't these stations have the same coverage envelope? Also, it seemed the hosts on 1010 and 680 did not seem to know about the interruption, but the CJRT was able to start a music track when it ended. Does the alert enter the system at the station HQ or is it piped direct to the transmitter?
 

 

September 7, 2021 10:07 pm  #2


Re: Different weather alerts

Ian wrote:

Does the alert enter the system at the station HQ or is it piped direct to the transmitter?
 

From my understanding, the alert is piped directly to the transmitter. In studio, unless the person on air hits the board button to hear the feed coming out of the transmitter, they won't realize the alert is happening. Programming only stops for the listener (if they're tuned in on a radio).

Last edited by Radio.Intern (September 7, 2021 10:09 pm)

 

September 7, 2021 11:28 pm  #3


Re: Different weather alerts

I've received alerts from Alert Ready/Emergency Management Ontario on my Bell Satellite TV of tornado warnings in full red screen for areas of western and southwestern Ontario while watching Global Toronto News at 5:30 PM September 7, 2021 here about an hour north of Kingston, Ontario but nothing on my phone. No thunderstorms here yet but may change overnight!

 

September 8, 2021 12:37 am  #4


Re: Different weather alerts

Ian wrote:

Why totally different messages?  Don't these stations have the same coverage envelope? 

The message itself is decoded on a station-by-station basis, or at least on a cluster by cluster basis. The stations you mentioned have very different coverage areas, therefore the weather alert will often be slightly different as the storm tracks across a region. 

Ian wrote:

Also, it seemed the hosts on 1010 and 680 did not seem to know about the interruption, but the CJRT was able to start a music track when it ended. Does the alert enter the system at the station HQ or is it piped direct to the transmitter? 

The only way the host would know is if they were listening to the transmitter (or Air) feed. In the digital age they still need to do their normal show for the streaming audience, which doesn't receive these alerts at most stations. Plus, if you listened to the air feed in your headphones it would be slightly delayed due to digital processing and latency, so most stations monitor the board program feed instead. Some automation systems support a direct interface with the ENDEC (the device that receives the alerts) whereby the operator can "schedule" the alert to play between audio instead of air on-top of the regular broadcast.. it sounds like CJRT may have this setup, whereas CFRB and CFTR do not. I also find it weird CFTR airs them at all... just have the anchor read it instead of that horrible automated voice. 

 

September 8, 2021 12:41 am  #5


Re: Different weather alerts

Scorpio42 wrote:

I've received alerts from Alert Ready/Emergency Management Ontario on my Bell Satellite TV of tornado warnings in full red screen for areas of western and southwestern Ontario while watching Global Toronto News at 5:30 PM September 7, 2021 here about an hour north of Kingston, Ontario but nothing on my phone. No thunderstorms here yet but may change overnight!

We're Cogeco subscribers in the Ottawa Valley, and we get those weather alerts on Global Toronto for other areas of the province, likely a last remnant of CIII's original Ontario-wide licence terms/conditions from day one.  Must originate from Global's master control hub (still in Calgary?), as the alerts are part of the program stream and not seen on any other channel.  Late spring/early summer this year, an episode of "The Young & The Restless" that my wife had recorded was pretty much obliterated by tornado warnings up north... Timmins, Kirkland Lake etc.  Given all the warnings that were issued today (Tue) in Y&R's 4:30-5:30 time slot, I scrapped today's recording and set the TiVo to pick up the same episode tomorrow (Wed) on CBS Detroit (WWJ)... Global is always one weekday ahead of CBS on airing new Y&R eps.

 

September 8, 2021 10:46 am  #6


Re: Different weather alerts

Ian wrote:

I heard the weather alert Tuesday evening. First on 1010 then switched over to 680. Both had the same well synthesized female voice giving a short alert which referenced southwest Ontario. Then I switched to CJRT and heard a completely different message. It used a poorly synthesized male voice and came on about slightly after the other one finished. It was much longer and addressed Flesherton, Walkerton and places in Grey County. It even included advice to vacate mobile homes.
Why totally different messages?  Don't these stations have the same coverage envelope? Also, it seemed the hosts on 1010 and 680 did not seem to know about the interruption, but the CJRT was able to start a music track when it ended. Does the alert enter the system at the station HQ or is it piped direct to the transmitter?
 

Hi Ian

The coverage areas for the stations is different and thus, they may broadcast different messages.

Also, many alerts contain an embedded high quality mp3 file that can be automatically played.  Possibly the one you heard is here  https://s3.amazonaws.com/naadsttsfs-prod/2.49.0.1.124.3102964887.2021-en-CA.mp3

There are alerts that my not contain an mp3.  Depending on the alert, and the configuration of the monitoring equipment at the station, the text-to speech translation may occur locally, in the alert monitoring device, which may result in a lower quality translation (that is why a high quality mp3 if often provided).

Typically, the alert monitoring device is inserted at the tail end of the studio production path, just prior to the output that feeds transmission.  The idea here is that nothing should override the emergency alert.  Seconds count especially with tornado alerts.

It is odd that CJRT would (apparently) have broadcast an alert for something that is (I believe) out of their broadcast range and that they seem to be using locally generated text-to speech.  Of course, equipment mis-configuration can cause all sorts of issues.

It is a complex system that is tricky to test.

I have commented on the emergency alert system in the past.

see https://gta.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=5324 and https://gta.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=5430

 

 

September 8, 2021 10:49 am  #7


Re: Different weather alerts

torontostan wrote:

. Plus, if you listened to the air feed in your headphones it would be slightly delayed due to digital processing and latency, so most stations monitor the board program feed instead. 

And if they're HD, the analog signal is delayed by 10 seconds for the analog/digital audio transition to be seamless. The days of using the off-air feed in studios is pretty much over.
 


 
 

September 8, 2021 1:58 pm  #8


Re: Different weather alerts

IMHO the alert system is a smoking tire fire.   I'm going to digress just a bit. Case in point, Tuesday at 1:45 AM, my wife was woken by the sound of my cell phone and the loud alarm of an Amber Alert for a kid in Barrie.   We are no where near barrie.  What's the odds. that we, sleeping in our beds in mid-town Toronto at 1:45 am are going to "see" this kid...we rarely leave our home due to COVID.   I get it, this is a service that sometimes provides a public service, but more often than not, beaming a message out at 1:45 am to millions of cell phone owners, who are no where near the kid, yields nothing but frustration.  besides, our phones are supposed to be set on "do not disturb" from 10 pm to 7 am.   I would love to have a face to face with the folks who run this S**tshow

It reminds me of the old fable about the kid who cried wolf.  Most of the time I don't even look at my phone when one of these amber alerts "sounds".

But CRTC Chairman Ian Scott believes they are wonderful - faultless and the system needs no fixing.


 

Last edited by tvguy (September 8, 2021 2:01 pm)

 

September 8, 2021 2:23 pm  #9


Re: Different weather alerts

tvguy wrote:

Case in point, Tuesday at 1:45 AM, my wife was woken by the sound of my cell phone and the loud alarm of an Amber Alert for a kid in Barrie.   We are no where near barrie.  What's the odds. that we, sleeping in our beds in mid-town Toronto at 1:45 am are going to "see" this kid...we rarely leave our home due to COVID.   I get it, this is a service that sometimes provides a public service, but more often than not, beaming a message out at 1:45 am to millions of cell phone owners, who are no where near the kid, yields nothing but frustration.  besides, our phones are supposed to be set on "do not disturb" from 10 pm to 7 am.   I would love to have a face to face with the folks who run this S**tshow
 

I agree with you tvguy.  We were in Kingston at the time.  Even farther away.

I "get it" that an abductor might be mobile and could travel some distance, but what's the point of waking people up, only to have them get frustrated knowing there was absolutely nothing that they could do to "find" the culprit.

It is possible to permit phones to ignore Amber alerts, if only the rules permitted.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/improve-amber-alerts-or-risk-alienating-public-expert-warns-1.5366734


 

 

September 8, 2021 3:08 pm  #10


Re: Different weather alerts

Thanks for all the great comments and explanations. Clearly the weather alert system is complex. I did mis-speak (or mis-type?) a little, and wrote 680 instead of 640 but the observation is still valid. I can see also why the station host may choose not to acknowledge the alert if the show is needed in pristine format for a later reroll. It still does not explain why only the CJRT listeners need to be advised of the potential hazards of a mobile home and not the loyal AM crowd. Perhaps the smaller audience of CJRT make them less expendable? And it also prompted me to examine the coverage patterns for each of the stations. 
 

     Thread Starter
 

September 8, 2021 4:08 pm  #11


Re: Different weather alerts

Sadly I think they need to reevaluate these alerts.

At first I disagreed with folks who didn't want to receive amber alerts in the middle of the night. My thought was "oh come on.. there's a child in danger so put up with it, you never know if you could help." Now I see the problem as being too many alerts across too wide of an area, too frequently. I don't mind being woken up every now and then, the problem is the more often we receive them, the less important they become overall (especially when they wake us up). 

In some countries you can decide which alerts you want your mobile device to receive... I believe is a bad approach and a slippery slope. If my phone is set to do-not-disturb/silence mode at 2AM, then the only alerts I should get are ones that would affect my life, or if there's something I can help with in the immediate vicinity (not Toronto for Barrie). There should be levels of alerts for instance, if there's severe weather or a natural disaster then wake everyone up across a wide area, but if at 2AM there's a child that's been missing already for 10 hours who could now be anywhere.. why wake everyone up? Send the alert out, but have it on a secondary level that doesn't play the tone if your device is on silent mode. If you're awake you'll read the alert, and if you're asleep then you'll read it when you wake up. 

Separate to this issue is that they're managed by Pelmorex, the private company that owns the Weather Network. This alone is a huge disaster is waiting to happen. What if a fire or power failure takes out Pelmorex HQ while an emergency alert needs to be sent out? Why should we trust a private company to spend what's necessary to ensure adequate backups are in place?

Furthermore, I believe these alerts in Canada are sent over the internet. So what happens if the emergency is related to a large telecom outage like the Rogers outage last year, or the big blackout of 2003? How do the alerts get disseminated then? The US system appears to be far better. FEMA even has dozens of AM stations outfitted with backup studios at their transmitter, and multiple transmission paths for the alerts themselves. As far as I know, Canada only uses the internet. Better hope Pelmorex has some stable DSL! ;) 

 

September 8, 2021 5:02 pm  #12


Re: Different weather alerts

torontostan wrote:

What if a fire or power failure takes out Pelmorex HQ while an emergency alert needs to be sent out?

Pelmorex has redundancy between thier Oakville facility and their Montreal facility

torontostan wrote:

As far as I know, Canada only uses the internet. Better hope Pelmorex has some stable DSL! ;) 

The alerts are also delivered via satellite however most facilities receive the alerts via an internet connection
 

 

September 8, 2021 5:38 pm  #13


Re: Different weather alerts

In Phase wrote:

torontostan wrote:

What if a fire or power failure takes out Pelmorex HQ while an emergency alert needs to be sent out?

Pelmorex has redundancy between thier Oakville facility and their Montreal facility

Good to know, thanks!

According to Pelmorex? All I'm saying is I don't see why cheap out on this of all issues and let it be managed privately. Of all things to cheap out on, they picked the system that would warn us of widespread disasters.. lucky us! Especially leaving it to be managed by a company that isn't seeing much financial growth these days. Also.. I'd want one of these facilities to be on the west coast in case of some very large issue with communications, attack, power grid, etc. 

In Phase wrote:

torontostan wrote:

As far as I know, Canada only uses the internet. Better hope Pelmorex has some stable DSL! ;) 

The alerts are also delivered via satellite however most facilities receive the alerts via an internet connection
 

Cool! Is that sat feed publicly available for any facility? Or are you referring to DTH satellites receiving them as well? The sat portion should be a mandatory backup on high power AMs and FMs. 

Compare our duct-taped system to the US system which gives their Primary Entry Point stations full fledged back-up studios and generators for clear channel AM stations, with seemingly multiple ways to relay that emergency message. 

 

September 8, 2021 6:14 pm  #14


Re: Different weather alerts

torontostan wrote:

In Phase wrote:

torontostan wrote:

What if a fire or power failure takes out Pelmorex HQ while an emergency alert needs to be sent out?

Pelmorex has redundancy between thier Oakville facility and their Montreal facility

Good to know, thanks!

According to Pelmorex? All I'm saying is I don't see why cheap out on this of all issues and let it be managed privately. Of all things to cheap out on, they picked the system that would warn us of widespread disasters.. lucky us! Especially leaving it to be managed by a company that isn't seeing much financial growth these days. Also.. I'd want one of these facilities to be on the west coast in case of some very large issue with communications, attack, power grid, etc.

Alert devices in the station can monitor both feeds so redundancy is constantly checked.

torontostan wrote:

In Phase wrote:

torontostan wrote:

As far as I know, Canada only uses the internet. Better hope Pelmorex has some stable DSL! ;)

The alerts are also delivered via satellite however most facilities receive the alerts via an internet connection
 

Cool! Is that sat feed publicly available for any facility?

C-Band distribution is provided by Telesat over the Anik F1R Satellite transponder 9B (4,100 MHz).  It is a digital transmission and you would need an authorized commercial receiver such as a Cisco D 9850.

 

 

September 8, 2021 6:46 pm  #15


Re: Different weather alerts

Interesting! Thanks for that!