After years of debate over exactly how broadcast-based emergency alert services should be executed, it seems that the necessary players have finally realized that a collaborative approach is best. Dan Hefky, chief of Emergency Management Ontario says he's thrilled to have so many parties - including the Ontario government and the Ontario Association of Broadcasters (OAB) - swimming in the same direction on this initiative. "This issue of public alerting has been around for a while, so for me to now work in partnership with the private sector on finding something that will push this thing forward is a dream come true," says Hefky. "This cannot be a singular sector solution, there have to be partnerships and that's why I applaud all of the work and effort that the OAB is putting into this. I'm just so pleased to see somebody hold their hand up and say ‘We're here to help.'" Two months after the CRTC proposed amending the Broadcasting Distribution Regulations to facilitate broadcast-based emergency alert services (Public Notice 2007-20), the Ontario government is apparently stepping up to the plate with the creation of its own public warning system. The Alert Ontario service will cover various levels of emergencies, with life-threatening situations such as tornados, floods and pandemics receiving a Red Alert and child endangerment scenarios continuing to be classified as Amber Alerts. "The ultimate goal of this initiative is to lessen the time between when we receive information in terms of the hazard and its inherent dangers to the public, and getting that information and the call to action to the people," says Hefky. Other details of the service, such as the technical aspects and how it will be distributed, have not been released. The announcement of the system was actually made by Ontario's commissioner of emergency management Jay Hope at a Radio-Television News Directors' Association of Canada conference last week, and a formal announcement isn't expected until July. Nancy Brown Dacko, president of the OAB, could only confirm to Canadian Communications Reports that the OAB was definitely working on this project, but that it is still a work in progress. In March, CCR reported that the CRTC's ruling on emergency alert services - particularly its decision not to mandate the proposed national service from Pelmorex Communications Inc. - left the industry open to negotiations between BDUs and broadcasters, or anyone else who could offer a warning system (CCR, March 16/2007). At the time, Rogers Communications Inc. was looking at the possibility of implementing a service of its own, so even if the Alert Ontario system comes to fruition in the summer, it's not a guarantee that it will be picked up by all BDUs. Also in March, the president of the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers Alain Normand expressed disappointment that the commission didn't rule in favour of the Pelmorex proposal on the grounds that one national system would reduce confusion for all involved. While Normand can't comment specifically on the Alert Ontario service without more information, he hopes it leads to a uniform approach in the province. "We're not against having different channels by which the message will eventually go to the people that are affected, but we want to make sure we get consistency of messaging and decision making," says Normand. "And that's the risk if we have too many people playing in the same pot. We're going to have messages that contradict each other, and that's what I'm scared about."