Notifications on our phone can be a lot. Whether it be texts, a new like on your latest social media post or your favourite food delivery company giving you a nudge, there will, however, be another alert springing up on your phone next month. The Government recently launched a UK-wide Emergency Alerts service, and in order to test the new public alert system all mobile phone users across the UK are set to receive a siren-like emergency warning message.
The test is expected to be sent to all UK mobile phones on April 23, and phone users will not be able to use other features on their devices unless they acknowledge the emergency alert. A message will appear on the home screens of people’s devices during the test, with vibration and a loud warning sound that will ring for about 10 seconds – even if the phone is set to silent.
The service has already been used successfully in a number of other countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it has been widely credited with saving lives, for example, during severe weather events. Aside from the test being carried out, Emergency Alerts will be used very rarely – only being sent where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives – so people may not receive an alert for months, or even years.
Why am I getting an emergency alert?
You may get alerts about severe flooding, fires or extreme weather, for example. Emergency alerts will only be sent by the emergency services and government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies.
What will the test emergency alert on April 23 say?
According to the Government website, the alert, which will be sent on Sunday 23rd April, 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 I receive an emergency alert?
In an emergency, mobile phone masts in the surrounding area will broadcast an alert. Every compatible mobile phone or tablet in range of a mast will receive the alert. Emergency alerts work on all 4G and 5G phone networks in the UK.
Your mobile phone or tablet does not have to be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi to get alerts and there is no charge to receive them. You do not need to sign up for them or download an app, and the emergency services and the UK government do not need your phone number to send you an alert.
What do I do when I get an emergency alert?
When you get an alert, stop what you’re doing and follow the instructions in the alert. If you’re driving or riding when you get an alert you should not read or respond to the emergency alert whilst driving or riding a motorcycle.
Find somewhere safe and legal to stop before reading the message. If there is nowhere safe or legal to stop close by, and nobody else is in the vehicle to read the alert, tune into live radio and wait for bulletins until you can find somewhere safe and legal to stop.
How accessible are the emergency alerts?
If you have a vision or hearing impairment, audio and vibration attention signals will let you know you have an emergency alert. Emergency alerts will be sent in English. In Wales, they may also be sent in Welsh.
Emergency alerts work on iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later and Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later. If you do not have a compatible device, you’ll still be informed as the emergency services have other ways to warn you and these emergency alerts will not replace notifications from local news, radio, television or social media.
You can find out more about the Government’s Emergency Alerts system here.