Emergency Alerts Service: what you need to know
By Alex Towers, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, BT
Unexpected emergencies can impact your home or life at any moment and when they do, every second counts. To ensure public safety when it matters most, the Government’s new Emergency Alerts Service is now operational across the UK.
The purpose of the Emergency Alerts Service is to enable government agencies and emergency services to warn people about life-threatening situations in their local area, such as severe flooding, fires, and public health crises. The switch-on of the service represents a landmark moment in the UK and follows the successful implementation of similar warning systems in places like Japan and New Zealand.
Customers across all mobile networks with 4G and 5G SIMs are now able to receive alerts with information and advice about how to keep them and their loved ones safe if the worst should happen.
The emergency alerts have been purposely designed to look and sound very different to other types of messages customers may receive, such as SMS text messages. When an alert is sent out, your mobile phone or tablet will vibrate and make a loud siren-like sound (even if it is set to silent) for approximately ten seconds. In the event an emergency alert is sent out, it is important customers read the message carefully and follow the instructions.
Depending on your phone’s features, the alert will work with screen magnification and may also read the message out loud. Importantly, the unique noise emitted by the phone will also be audible for those who use a hearing aid.
Emergency alerts will only ever be issued by the government or emergency services, so if you are ever unsure if an alert is genuine, you can check by visiting gov.uk/alerts.
The system works by using mobile network infrastructure to send the same emergency message to all compatible phones in an area of risk, warning them of any danger and providing steps on how to stay safe. The service does not require your phone number, collect data, or track your location or movements. It also does not require an app to be downloaded and is completely free for everyone.
Your mobile phone or tablet does not have to be connected to mobile data or Wi-Fi to receive the alerts. However, customers currently using non-smartphone devices on legacy 2G and 3G networks – which the Government has committed to see phased out over the coming years – will not be able to receive these notifications.
To help people familiarise themselves with the new system and how it works, the Government plans to send out the first national test message using the Emergency Alerts Service on Sunday 23rd April. To learn more, head to gov.uk/alerts.