doug — off the record

just a place to share some thoughts

Not a test

By now, I’m sure that most Ontarians know of this:

By the time that you read this, I’m really hoping that there was a happy conclusion to the Amber alert.

Hearing about it was an experience for me.  I always have my cellphone muted.  I don’t want to be known as the person who constantly has beeps and bops coming from their pocket.

So, I was really surprised when I received the alert Monday.

Not only was the sound from my phone but it was really loud.  It was the first time that I’d received an alert like this on the phone.  For some reason, I didn’t get the test alert that was supposed to be sent out last week.

It was a reminder that technology isn’t always what you think.  In my case, my phone was perfectly muted.  Yet, the message came through loudly – really loudly – and clearly.  In fact, I didn’t know that my phone could be that loud.  Even when amplifying the sound, once you go over half volume, I get a warning that sounds at this level could be damaging.

Interestingly, when I grabbed my phone to see what was happening, there was a full screen message on display.  I tapped on OK, hoping that would silence the phone.  It did but had the side effect of making the message go away before I had a chance to read it all.

Fortunately, my weather application was broadcasting the same alert and I was able to go in there and read it in its entirety.  In a couple of minutes, the same alert was broadcast on satellite television.

The really good news is that such an important message like this was broadcast effectively on a number of different media.

Ever the teacher though, I can imagine a classroom where students have all their devices set to mute as per school or classroom policy and then all going off at the same time with this alert.  I know that it got my attention and I jumped with just my one phone; I can’t imagine 30 going off at the same time!

Surely this procedure will have provided enough information to the Ontario Provincial Police to resolve things

It’s also a good idea to follow @AMBERAlertONTDo that right now.

Addendum – just received another message that the boy was found safely


7 responses to “Not a test”

  1. Doug, I find it interesting that yours was so loud. My cell phone/flip phone was off at the time yesterday, so I didn’t hear anything, but my teaching partner’s was muted (as it always is). It made enough of a sound for her to look and see what was happening, but it wasn’t loud enough for the rest of the class to look and see what was happening. She also missed the details of the Alert, but I checked Twitter, and we figured it out. Glad to hear that the Amber Alert worked. I just read the good news. I wonder what others experienced with the noise. I can only imagine how loud multiple devices going off at the same time would sound, and how people would react as a result. (I think my principal was in a principal’s meeting at the time. All of that noise could’ve had a very dysregulating outcome. That being said, knowing the Amber Alert worked and a child was saved seems to make it worth it. Don’t you think?!)


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Aviva. I absolutely agree that the sound is a small price to pay for an alert like this. Since we live so close to a Nuclear Power Plant, it could be of real benefit but I hope that we never have to experience it.

    It was a shock to hear it for the first time; it would have been nice to have seen the original “test” so that I wasn’t taken by so much surprise when the announcement came through yesterday. But, now I know.


  3. Andrew Forgrave Avatar
    Andrew Forgrave

    Wait … WHAT???

    If the two alerts that you are talking about are the same ones as the two that went off on my phone yesterday, then we’ve got some problems:

    1) The alert was very loud, and startled my students because they’d never heard one before (I had to tell them that it wasn’t some kind of fire alarm, because they started evacuating the room).
    2) Because I hadn’t received the test alert of the emergency broadcast system last week (due to some bug with the system it didn’t go out through some phone providers, mine one of them) I assumed that that’s what it was.
    3) To silence the thing so that I could let the class know everything was fine, I tapped on the message which made it go away. Unfortunately, I did that without reading (assuming it was the tardy test alert), and once it was gone, it appeared to be lost from my notification history. When it went off the second time, I was in the process of knocking on the door of another class, and so I silenced it again without reading, figuring it was another test. So I don’t know if the two messages I received were Amber alerts or not. I guess they were?

    • Perhaps, through the miracle of smart phones, we could have some other alert sound than the klaxon for things like Amber alerts? In another context, I might’ve assumed that there were missiles inbound to Hawaii.
    • When you are testing an alert system, it makes sense to give everyone a heads up. However, if the system sounds the same as an existing system, then let us know so that we don’t confuse it with your test. (The Amber alert system has been working for some time, and Ontario is fortunate that it doesn’t have to be used a lot such that it has become the nuisance that yesterdays alerts were.)
    • If I need to read a message every time one of those alerts comes across, then I and those in my surroundings (all those students) will need to put up with the alarm until I have a chance to read it in the future. There needs to be a way to silence the alert that is separate from dismissing the message. Pushing something directly to our screens so that we have to look at it is an important UX decision, but give us some way to see the history of such important notifications, too.

    In closing, if yesterday’s alerts were Amber alerts using an already functioning system, then the notification of the pending test messages that I had been alerted to expect completely served (as in the case of the boy who cried Wolf) to cause me to dismiss them as false alarms.

    And, if the test alert that we were all told to expect hasn’t come yet (or maybe it did, but it didn’t get to my phone) then I guess I don’t know if the test system they were talking about is working yet.

    I guess I need to go on the Internet, and see.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Could you imagine if they all had cell phones, Andy?


  4. It might seem like the loud alerts last forever, but the alarms actually only last 8 seconds. Overall I am still of the opinion that the benefit is worth the inconvenience, however, after I received my FIFTH Amber Alert yesterday, it began to feel like overkill. That’s 5 different but equally loud alerts over a 3-hour period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I got off easy then. You got five of them?


  5. What happens if there’s an Amber Alert or other alert in the middle of the night? Yes it’s an important notification but yesterday’s alert was for a situation 1300 kilometres from my home. Chances are I’m going to hit the phone to silence the alarm and not get to read the notification. Still a few glitches to figure out.


Please share your thoughts here. I’d enjoy reading them.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: