emergency alert amber

Amber Alert scares the heck out of everyone in Toronto

Remember last week when safety officials promised to "test" the national emergency alert system on every mobile phone in Ontario at the same time?

Most of us were ready for a jarring beep or lengthy vibration at 1:55 p.m. last Monday, just like we were warned to be. And yet, most of us didn't receive anything at all, ever. Not from AlertReady.

It was kind of a let down, to be honest.

In the absence of a test alert on May 7, some Ontarians were left to wonder if the system even worked.

Then they wondered about other things, moved on with their lives, and maybe even forgot about Monday's half-failed alert test altogether.

That changed this morning when, around 11:35 a.m., a chilling "air raid siren" rang out through offices, homes and public spaces all over the province.

The emergency warning was to notify everyone in Ontario of an Amber Alert for 8-year-old Gabriel McCallum, who was last seen in Gorham Township (near Thunder Bay).

It wasn't the type of tone we're used to hearing from our smartphones, especially every phone in the room at once, which made it kind of scary (though I guess that's the point.)

People who were speaking on the phone at the time had their conversations interrupted, briefly, by the alert, while others jumped up and looked around like "WTF?"

The phrase "Amber Alert" was trending on Twitter locally within minutes as Ontarians expressed shock and, in some cases, frustration.

A second alert for the same case come through around noon, this time in French.

Again, people were startled. Did I mention that this alert sounds exactly like the Cold War-Era nuclear missile warnings we've been seeing in movies our entire lives?

And that it's super loud?

Well, I think it's safe to say that the alert system works, even if some people aren't happy about the way it works.

Police say that anyone who sees Gabriel MCCallum or Lynda McCallum, the person believed to have taken him, should call 9-1-1.

Update: The Amber Alert issued in Thunder Bay, ON was cancelled around 12:45 p.m. Monday. Police say the child has been located.

Lead photo by

Aaron Navarro


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