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Public alerting systems in case of nuclear emergency

Note: During a nuclear emergency, people living near the impacted nuclear facility should GO inside their homes, LISTEN to the radio or television and FOLLOW the directions provided by authorities.

About public alerting systems

Public alerting siren surrounding the Bruce Nuclear  Generating Station
Public alerting siren surrounding the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station (Courtesy: Municipality of Kincardine)

Public alerting systems are designed to ensure that the public living or working in areas surrounding nuclear power plants can be promptly notified of any declared nuclear emergency.

Depending on your community, public alerting systems may include:

  • sirens
  • radio announcements
  • cable television broadcasts
  • satellite television broadcasts
  • text messaging
  • automated phone dialling systems
  • social media alerts

Through these systems, you will receive instructions or be prompted to obtain more information from a designated source as to what actions you are expected to take.

Depending on the system being used, public alerts can reach residents indoors, outdoors or both.

To ensure their effectiveness, public alerting systems are continuously tested throughout the year; this includes drills and exercises that are evaluated by the Canadian Nuclear safety Commission (CNSC) and the provinces.

For more information on the specific alerts in place in your municipality, please visit:

Initiation of alerting systems

When an emergency is declared at a nuclear power plant, the affected facility must notify the province and the municipality within 15 minutes of declaration.

Based on their safety assessment of the event, the province may order the municipality to activate their public alerting systems.

What do I do if I hear a public alert?

In the unlikely case of a nuclear emergency, you will be notified through public alert systems, such as a telephone call or sirens. If this happens, follow these three steps – Go, Listen and Follow:

  • Go inside your home and turn on your radio, television or computer.
  • Listen to the media reports.
  • Follow the instructions provided by the provincial government.

As with any emergency, remember to stay calm.

Types of public alerts

  Ontario Quebec New Brunswick
Responsibility for public alerting Municipality
(Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act)
(Civil Protection Act)
(Emergency Measures Act)
Alerts in place:
Sirens Yes Yes No
Automated phone dialing systems Yes Yes Yes
Text message Yes No Yes
Media Yes Yes Yes
Door-to-door notification No Yes Yes

Sirens: An outdoor alerting system, sirens are mounted on metal poles that are approximately 10 feet higher than street lights. They are powered by batteries that are charged by solar panels and are not affected by power outages.

Automated phone dialling systems: Automated dialling systems provide indoor warnings to residents and businesses within pre-established zones. The system delivers a pre-recorded message to inform residents about the emergency, and/or give them emergency instructions.

Text message: In some areas, text messages are sent to mobile telephones using the SMS (short messages system) protocol. Text messages are used to inform residents, provide instructions and/or direct them to an authorized source for more information or emergency instructions.

Media: Alerts may be made through the media, including radio, cable and satellite television.

Door-to-door notifications: In the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency, representatives from the affected facility or the community may alert the community by going from door to door and speaking to residents directly.

Social media: Organizations can now provide real-time alerts through social media websites, such as Twitter and Facebook.

More information

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