Emergency Alert Issued in Error - Status Update and Information

Posted on Monday January 13, 2020

At approximately 7:30 am on January 12, 2020, an emergency message was broadcast via the Alert Ready system to a large number of Ontario residents, informing them of an ‘incident’ at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station. A follow up emergency message was sent out declaring that the previous message was sent in error.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has confirmed that there was no incident at the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station and there was never any danger to the public or environment.

Ontario’s Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, said in a statement that the alert was issued in error to the public during a routine training exercise being conducted by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

Mayor Dave Ryan has personally spoken to Minister Jones, Minister of Energy, Greg Rickford, and Pickering MPP, Peter Bethlenfalvy, and has received their commitment that a full investigation will be conducted to determine what happened, and the appropriate steps that will be taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

Mobile Phone Alerts

Ontario’s participation in the Alert Ready system falls under the responsibility of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Ministry of the Solicitor General.

Information about mobile notifications can be found on the Alert Ready website:

In order for a wireless device to be capable of receiving an alert, three broad conditions must be met.

The wireless device must be:

  • A wireless public alerting (WPA) compatible device, like a smartphone, capable of connecting to an LTE network (LTE is commonly referred to as “4G LTE”); and
  • Equipped with the latest version of its operating software; and
  • Connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the emergency alert is issued or joins the network while the alert is still active.

Older cell phones that operate exclusively on non-LTE networks will not get an alert.

It is very important to verify your device’s compatibility with your service provider, and to understand what may impact your ability to receive an alert even if your device is identified as compatible. If your device was purchased outside of Canada, it may be necessary for you to contact the device manufacturer for additional information for your specific device.

In addition to wireless, alerts will also be available on TV and radio. Distributing alerts on multiple platforms helps ensure you receive this important information directly, or are near someone who has.

Outdoor Sirens and Landline Phone Alerts

The Region of Durham is responsible for the public alerting system of outdoor sirens and automated telephone dialing as part of its nuclear emergency response. This weekend’s false alert was initiated by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre and not the Region of Durham.

Emergency Response Plans

In the event of a nuclear emergency, the Province of Ontario is immediately in-charge, followed by the Region of Durham, who the City of Pickering would receive direction from. Learn more at www.emergencymanagementontario.ca.

The Durham Region Nuclear Emergency Response Plan details offsite response actions to be taken in the event of a nuclear emergency at the Darlington or Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

The City of Pickering’s Community Emergency Management Plan is available online at pickering.ca/beprepared.

The Region is prepared to implement protective measures in a 10-kilometre zone around the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station to protect the public from exposure to a radioactive release.

Protective measures include:

  • Evacuation: Residents will be advised to evacuate to designated facilities following evacuation routes designated by the Province.
  • KI (Potassium Iodide) Pills: Potassium Iodide pills prevent or reduce the radioiodine absorption by the thyroid gland through the ingestion of a stable iodine compound. Residents may pick up Potassium Iodide pills free of charge at designated pharmacies.
  • Public alerting: This includes sirens within 3 kilometres of the nuclear station, and an automated telephone dialing system to all homes within 10 kilometres of the nuclear station. Visit the Region of Durham website for more information on the public alerting system, including scheduled siren testing.

KI Pill Distribution to Pickering Residents & Businesses

In the highly unlikely event of a nuclear accident, a potassium iodide (KI) pill is a key component to keeping you and your family safe. Changes outlined by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission now require that all homes and businesses within the primary zone of a nuclear station be provided with KI pills. Those located within 10 kilometres of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station can receive a package of potassium iodide (KI) pills in the mail. Please visit preparetobesafe.ca for more information. 

Pickering Nuclear Generating Station

The City of Pickering believes in the continued safe operations of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station as an important part of the province’s energy mix. Visit Ontario Power Generation’s website for more information.

Be prepared - Know what to do in the event of an emergency

Visit pickering.ca/beprepared for information on personal emergency responsibility for you and your family.