Government will test emergency alert system in a nationwide test sent to mobile phones

The alerts will be used to notify people of threats to life, such as flooding (Getty Images)

The government has launched a new emergency alert system that will send a siren-like alert to mobile phones.

The system will give government and emergency services the ability to send a message directly to mobile phones when there is a risk to life. When your device receives the alert, it will vibrate and play a loud siren-like sound for up to 10 seconds.

The siren will be accompanied by a notification on your home screen, which you will need to acknowledge before you can use other features. The notification may include telephone numbers or links to websites that contain 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 percent of mobile phones in a defined area. Any compatible device within range will receive the message.

Alerts can only be sent by authorized users of government and emergency services. Alerts will always include details of the affected area and provide instructions on how best to respond, including links to, which will provide more information.

Messages will be transmitted from cell phone towers near the emergency, ensuring they are safe, free, and one-way. People’s privacy will not be affected as alerts do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.  

Members of the public should receive the alert between four and 10 seconds after it is sent. By contrast, SMS messages can take days to post when sent to the entire population and will not be received by people outside of the UK.

People who do not wish to receive these alerts can opt out of receiving them in their device settings. The system has already been successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading, ahead of the planned national trial. A survey of people conducted after the tests found that 88 percent wanted to receive the alerts in the future.

Emergency alerts will be used very rarely as they will only be sent when there is an immediate risk to people’s lives. Many people may not receive any messages for months or years at a time. Initially, they will focus on the most serious weather-related incidents, including floods and potential wildfires.

Floodwater surrounds Bathampton, located next to the River Avon, which has burst its banks (Getty Images)

Floodwater surrounds Bathampton, located next to the River Avon, which has burst its banks (Getty Images)

Announcing the launch of the system, 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 bushfires. .

“It will revolutionize our ability to warn and inform people that they are in immediate danger and help us keep people safe. As we have seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”

National Council of Fire Chiefs President Mark Hardingham also welcomed the launch of the system. “Together with all fire and rescue 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 in other parts of the world and look forward to having it installed here in the UK; By working together with the fire services and partners, we want this system to help us help you to be as safe as possible. you can do it if a crisis comes.”

The United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan have successfully implemented and used similar systems. Alerts have been widely recognized as saving lives. However, the US state of Hawaii caused widespread panic on January 13, 2018 when it accidentally sent an alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile to televisions, radios, and mobile phones. Officials blamed a lack of communication during a drill at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

You can see what alerts look and sound like at

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