"the buzz of a phone can save a life."
The government has announced the launch of UK-wide Emergency Alerts. It is in operation from March 19, 2023.
The government has been working with mobile broadcasting technology to transform the UK’s warning and informing capability, providing a means to get urgent messages quickly to nearly 90 per cent of mobile phones in a defined area.
It will provide clear instructions about how best to respond.
As the Government continues to strengthen its resilience capability, the system is now ready to be tested nationwide, following successful testing in East Suffolk and Reading.
A UK-wide alert will take place in the early evening of April 23, 2023, which will see people receive a message on their phones as well as a siren-like sound.
The alerts will only ever come from the Government or emergency services.
They will issue a warning, always include the details of the area impacted and provide instructions about how best to respond – linking to gov.uk/alerts where people can receive further information.
What does the alert look and sound like? ????
Emergency Alerts will appear on the home screen of your device and you will hear a loud siren-like sound and feel a vibration for up to 10 seconds.
Watch the video below ????????? pic.twitter.com/U0ZvNr31yt
— Cabinet Office (@cabinetofficeuk) March 19, 2023
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.
The service has already been used successfully in the likes of the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.
In the UK, alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached by wildfires, or of severe flooding.
Announcing the launch of the new alerts system, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, said:
“We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.
“It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe.
“As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”
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.
The Government has been working closely with a range of stakeholders and partners across the UK on developing the system, including colleagues from the emergency services, transport groups and the Environment Agency.
Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said:
“Together with every fire and rescue service in the country, I’m looking forward to having Emergency Alerts available to help us to do our jobs and to help communities in the event of emergencies.
“We’ve seen this type of system in action elsewhere across the world and we look forward to having the facility here in the UK.
“By working together with fire services and partners we want this system to help us to help you be as safe as you can if a crisis does hit.”
Executive Director for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management at the Environment Agency, Caroline Douglass, said:
“Being able to communicate warnings in a timely and accurate manner during incidents is really important to help people take action to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbours.
“This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1953 east coast surge, one of the worst flood events in our recent history which saw over 300 people perish in England.
“While our ability to warn and inform has come on leaps and bounds since then, Emergency Alerts is a fantastic addition to our toolbox that we can use in emergency situations.”
By broadcasting from cell towers near to the emergency, the alerts are secure, free to receive and one-way.
They do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.