Amber Alert not delivered across province due to software update: OPP

A software update by a third party resulted in an Amber Alert for a baby girl not going out to cellphones across Ontario this week, provincial police said Friday after investigating the problem. 

The alert was sent just before 3:30 a.m. Thursday for a three-month-old girl who was last seen with her father in Roseneath, Ont., northeast of Cobourg, Ont. – the girl was later found safe and her father was taken into custody. 

But while the alert went out to cellphones in the area where the girl was last seen, it did not get delivered to cellphones provincewide, Ontario Provincial Police said. 

The force launched an investigation and said Friday that a software update was behind the issue. 

“During the attempt to issue an AMBER Alert, the OPP experienced a technical issue,” it wrote in a statement. 

“We have now identified that this issue was the result of an automated third-party software update. The issue has been resolved, and the OPP’s AMBER Alert system is once again fully functional.”

OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said that because the software updates involve a third party, the police force was not aware of one taking place, nor is it notified of them. 

OPP said they contacted the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre on Thursday when they realized the Amber Alert wasn’t going out properly and it was able to issue the alert on the OPP’s behalf.

Investigators had reason to believe at that time that the suspect had not travelled far, police said. 

OPP said they are taking steps to address the issue to prevent it from happening again.

“Technical teams have been working to create a backup to circumvent automated updates that are outside the OPP’s control,” the force said. 

OPP also said they will be creating a manual process to enable access to Alert Ready, the country’s emergency notification system, without third-party software and will continue to test the system on a regular basis.

Amber Alerts are issued provincewide to cellphones and media outlets to help solicit public assistance in the search for a child who is believed to be abducted and at risk of imminent harm.

LTE-connected and compatible cellphones and other wireless devices receive Amber Alerts through Alert Ready.

The Amber Alert system was adopted in Ontario in 2003. 

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Jeff Chiu

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2023.