On Monday (19 March), the Cabinet Office launched a new system that will give the government and emergency services the capability to send an alert directly to mobile phones when there is a risk to life.
The Emergency Alerts system will allow the government to get urgent messages quickly to nearly 90 percent of mobile phones in a defined area. The system is now ready to be tested across the country following successful tests in East Suffolk and Reading.
The alerts will only ever come from the government or emergency services, and they will issue a warning, the details of the area impacted, and instructions about how best to respond.
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.
Emergency Alerts will be used across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and their initial use will focus on the most serious severe weather-related incidents, including severe flooding in England.
By broadcasting from cell towers in the vicinity of an emergency, the alerts are secure, free to receive, and one-way. They do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.
Some vulnerable groups may want to opt out of the emergency alerts system. However, the government strongly recommends that people do not opt out of the service, as it is intended to warn people when lives are in danger.
The government has produced a toolkit to help councils communicate key messages as part of the Emergency Alerts campaign.
A UK-wide alerts test will take place in the early evening of 23 April which will see people receive a test message on their mobile phones.