THE details of a public emergency alert message which will be sent to every mobile phone in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales this weekend has been revealed.
At 3pm on Sunday, April 23 the Government will test a UK-wide public alert system which sends a message to all mobile phoner users warning them if there is a “life-threatening emergency nearby”.
The test alert will see people receive a message on the home screen of their mobile phone, along with a sound and vibration for up to ten seconds.
The message 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 a real 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.”
For the test this weekend, the public does not need to take any action, the Government confirmed in a statement made this week.
“The sound and vibration will stop automatically after ten seconds,” they explained.
“All people need to do is swipe away the message or click ‘OK’ on their phone’s home screen - just like for a ‘low battery’ warning or notification - and continue to use their phone as normal.”
They add: “Best practice of Emergency Alerts in other countries have shown that they work more effectively when there is a real emergency if people have previously received a test, so they know what an alert looks and sounds like.”
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP, said of the nationwide testing event: “At 3pm next Sunday we’ll be doing a nationwide test of our new Emergency Alerts system.
“Getting this system operational means we have a vital tool to keep the public safe in life-threatening emergencies. It could be the sound that saves your life.
“Emergency Alerts have 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. In the UK, alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached by wildfires, or of severe flooding.”
Chief Fire Officer Alex Woodman, Lead for Local Resilience Forums at the National Fire Chiefs Council, added: “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.
“For 10 seconds, the national test may be inconvenient for some, but it’s important, because the next time you hear it - your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it.”
The Government has worked together with the emergency services and partners, including the Football Association and London Marathon, to make sure the national test has minimum impact on major events taking place on April 23
They add that there is an option for vulnerable people, such as domestic abuse victims, who may need to conceal a secret phone, to opt out of the nationwide alert.
“At every stage, the Government has worked with organisations and charities who represent vulnerable groups to make sure they are not adversely affected,” they state.
“Women and girls who are subject to domestic abuse and have concealed phones can opt-out of the national test either by turning off Emergency Alerts in their phone settings or by switching their phone off.”
Emma Pickering, Senior Operations Tech Abuse Manager at Refuge, said: “Next week, the Government plans to send a test alert to all devices including tablets as well as phones. “These alerts will come through as a loud siren even if devices are on silent, and could alert an abuser to a concealed device.
“Refuge’s Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment Team have put together two videos on how to turn these alerts off, both on Android phones and on iPhones for anyone that is concerned that these alerts will put their safety at risk.
“We want to ensure as many survivors as possible know how to ensure these alerts are turned off on their hidden devices.
“We have more information on securing your devices – for example your location settings or privacy settings – on refugetechsafety.org.”
The new Emergency Alerts system is expected to “transform the UK’s warning and informing capability” by providing a means to get urgent messages quickly to nearly 90 per cent of mobile phones in a defined area when there is a risk to life, and provide clear instructions about how best to respond.
“The system 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 years,” the Government adds.