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National test of UK Emergency Alerts system

National test of UK Emergency Alerts system

A new UK public system, capable of sending an alert directly to mobile phones when there is a risk to life, will be tested at 3pm on Sunday 23 April.

Emergency Alerts is a new system giving the UK Government and emergency services the ability to broadcast urgent messages to a defined area. It will be only be used when there is an imminent risk to life, such as wildfires or severe flooding.

What will the test involve?

The test will involve a loud siren-like sound and vibration on 4G and 5G mobile phones. The sound and vibration will last for up to 10 seconds. A message will also display on the phone’s home screen.

The message on the home screen can be swiped away, or ‘OK’ on the phone’s screen can be clicked. This is similar to a ‘low battery’ warning or notification. The phone can then be used as normal.

After ten seconds the sound and vibration will stop automatically.

Chair of The National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said:

“We must use every tool at our disposal to keep people safe, and we need everyone to play their part – and the new Emergency Alerts system is one way we can do this.

“The national test may be inconvenient for some, but please forgive us for the 10 second intrusion, because the next time you hear it, your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it.”

Why has Emergency Alerts been introduced?

Emergency Alerts went live across the UK on Sunday 19 March 2023.

The Government anticipates this system will transform the UK’s warning and informing capability.

Working with mobile broadcasting technology, it provides a way to get urgent messages out quickly to nearly 90 per cent of mobile phones in a defined area.

Alerts will provide clear instructions on how to respond to an incident. They will only be sent in situations where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives, so people may not receive one for months or years.

Best practice in use of Emergency Alerts in other countries has shown that this sort of test helps the system work more effectively in a real emergency. It prepares people in advance for what an alert looks and sounds like.

Where can I find out more?

You can find out more information about Emergency Alert at gov.uk/alerts.

You can find out more about how Emergency Alerts work (including how to opt out of receiving them) at How emergency alerts work – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).

Refuge has put together some specific advice for anyone who has a hidden phone: Emergency Alerts | Refuge Tech Safety.

You can hear an example of what the test will look and sound like in this short video clip:

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