The UK Government has launched an emergency alert service that will notify people about potential life-threatening events via their mobile phones.
The first test of this service will be run in April. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.
“It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe. As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”
The US, Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands already have similar systems in place to warn people about severe weather events.
Here’s everything you need to know about the alerts, and what to expect from the test.
When is the emergency alert test?
The emergency alert test will be run on Sunday 23 April.
The alert will say: “This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK Government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.
“In an actual emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.
“Visit gov.uk/alerts for more information.
“This is a test. You do not need to take any action.”
How will the emergency alerts work?
Emergency alerts will only be sent by the emergency services, or government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies.
You may get alerts about severe flooding, fires or extreme weather.
When you get an alert your mobile phone or tablet may:
- make a loud siren-like sound, even if it’s set on silent;
- read out the alert.
The sound and vibration will last for about 10 seconds.
An alert will include a phone number or a link to the government website for more information.
You will get alerts based on your current location, not where you live or work. You do not need to turn on location services to receive alerts.
When you get an alert you should stop what you’re doing and follow the instructions in the alert. You will have to acknowledge the alert before you can use your phone’s other features.
If you are driving you should find somewhere to safely stop before responding to the alert.
The Government said the alerts will be secure, free to receive, and will not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.
The alerts will work on all 4G and 5G phone networks. Older “non-smart” phones won’t be included, with the 3G technology that they use being switched off next year. The Government has said that people will be informed by other means if they don’t have a compatible device.
Can I turn the emergency alerts off?
It is possible to opt out of receiving emergency alerts in your device’s settings.
Your settings should have an Emergency Alerts section, which should be under Notifications.
Once you’re in this section you can select which alerts you want to turn on or off.