The government has introduced a new emergency alert system that sends a siren-like alert to mobile phones.
The system will give the government and emergency services the ability to send a message directly to mobile phones when there is a risk of death. When your device receives the alert, it will vibrate and play a loud, siren-like tone for up to 10 seconds.
The siren is accompanied by a notification on your home screen that you must acknowledge before you can use other features. The notification may include phone numbers or website links that provide more information.
The new system, which will go live on Sunday April 23, should allow the government and emergency services to send urgent messages quickly to almost 90 per cent of mobile phones in a given area. Any compatible device within range will receive the message.
The alerts can only be sent by authorized users from authorities and emergency services. The alerts always include details of the affected area and instructions on how best to respond, including links to gov.uk/alerts for more information.
Messages are broadcast from cell towers near the emergency to ensure they are safe, free and one-way. People’s privacy is not compromised as the alerts do not reveal anyone’s location nor collect any personal information.â€¯â€¯
Members of the public should receive the alert about four to ten seconds after it is sent. In contrast, SMS messages can take days to be released when sent to the entire population and are not received by people outside the UK.
People who don’t want to receive these notifications can turn them off in their device settings. The system has already been successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading ahead of the planned national test. A survey of people conducted after the tests revealed that 88 percent would like to receive the notifications in the future.
Emergency alerts are used very rarely, as they are only sent when there is an imminent threat to human life. Many people may not receive messages for months or years. They will initially focus on the most severe severe weather events, including flooding and possible wildfires.
Announcing the launch of the system, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP, said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alert system to deal with a wide range of threats – from floods to wildfires.
“It will revolutionize our ability to warn and inform people who are in imminent danger and help us protect people. As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, a phone’s buzz can save lives.”
The chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, also welcomed the introduction of the system. “Together with all fire and emergency services in the country, I look forward to having emergency alerts available to help us do our jobs and help communities in emergencies.
“We have seen this type of system in action elsewhere in the world and look forward to having the facility here in the UK – through working with fire services and partners we want this system to help us help you, as safely as we can.” to be possible you can when a crisis hits.”
The US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan have all successfully adopted and used similar systems. The warnings are widely credited with saving lives. However, the US state of Hawaii sparked widespread panic on January 13, 2018, when it accidentally broadcast a warning of an incoming ballistic missile to TVs, radios, and cellphones. Officials accused miscommunication during an exercise at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
You can see what the alerts look and sound like at gov.uk/alerts.