On April 23, the entire country will receive a test alert notification on their phones as part of the UK government's trial of a new mobile alert system. This alert will sound an alarm that can be used to warn people of imminent danger.
The Government says this technology will mean they can more effectively communicate and alert the public to emergencies such as flooding, wildfires, or even missiles. Emergency services, transport officials, and environment agencies were all consulted during the development of this tool to make sure it can help as many people as possible.
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden said: “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.”
Many places, such as the US, Canada, Japan, and the Netherlands already have similar systems in place to warn people of severe weather events as quickly as possible.
In 2018, a similar warning system in Hawaii caused mass panic during a test when residents were unintentionally sent messages warning them of a ballistic missile that was heading towards the island and even stated “this is not a drill”.
So, to avoid any panic, we are here to answer any questions you may have about this technology and how it works.
What happens when you get an emergency alert on your phone?
Apart from the test of the 23rd April, the alert will only ever be utilised when there is an immediate risk to life. It is unlikely that you will receive this alert often, possibly not at all, but in the rare-event of an emergency situation, you will receive a pop-up message along with a 10-second siren. This will sound even if your phone is on silent.
You will have to acknowledge that you’ve seen the notification before you can continue using your phone, this is to help increase it’s reach and stop the alert from being mistaken for an alarm.
The message will include numbers to call for help if needed, along with any links to extra information about the event.
During the test on 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.”
In Wales, the message will also be displayed in Welsh.
Can I opt out?
While we don’t recommend opting out, you can turn off emergency alerts via your phone settings at any time.
For an IPhone: Go to “Settings”, then “Notifications”, scroll down to the toggles at the very bottom and turn off “Extreme Alerts” and “Severe Alerts
On Android, the toggle is found emergency alerts are found under ‘Settings’, then ‘Notifications’, then ‘Wireless Emergency Alerts’.
Will you be able to access it if you don’t have a smartphone?
These alerts will work on all 4G and 5G phone networks. As 3G technology is being switched off next year, older “non-smart” phone won’t be included. However, the government have said that if people don’t have a compatible device they will be informed by other means.