The UK government has announced plans to test the UK emergency alert system that will send a siren-like notification to all mobile phones on 23rd April.
The new system is being trialled for use in the event of an immediate risk to life and enables emergency services to send messages directly to mobile phones when there is a threat to people’s safety. The siren-like notification can only be sent by an authorised government source: phones will vibrate and play a loud sound for up to 10 seconds, accompanied by guidance on how to respond sent from emergency services within a notification on the device’s home screen.
People’s privacy will not be affected as the alerts do not reveal their location or collect personal data. The system will go live on Sunday 23 April and should reach nearly 90% of mobile phones within a defined area.
People can opt-out of the emergency alerts by changing their device settings, but a survey conducted after the tests found that 88% of people wished to receive the alerts in the future. Emergency alerts will be used very rarely and will focus on the most severe weather-related incidents, such as flooding and possible wildfires. The system has already been successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading.
The UK is following in the footsteps of other countries, such as the US, Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan, that have successfully rolled out similar emergency alert systems credited with saving lives. However, the US state of Hawaii caused panic when it accidentally sent out an alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile to televisions, radios, and mobile phones. Officials blamed miscommunication during a drill at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, which caused more than 30 minutes of panic. The UK government aims to strengthen national resilience with the new emergency alert system, which will help to warn and inform people in immediate danger and keep them safe.