UK phones get emergency alert system to warn of life-threatening incidents

Government says new emergency alerts will be rarely used (representative)


Siren-like alerts will be sent to mobile phone users across the UK next month to test a new public warning system for life-threatening events such as severe weather, the government announced on Sunday.

A UK-wide test of the alert will take place on the evening of Sunday 23 April, when people will receive a test message on their mobile phones.

The government says the new emergency alerts will be used rarely and only to places where there is an immediate threat to people’s lives, so people may not be alerted for months or even years.

While not currently covered, terror alerts could also be added to the list of potential events that will trigger notifications over time.

Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Dowden said: “We are strengthening our national response to threats ranging from floods to wildfires with a new emergency alert system.”

“This will revolutionize our ability to warn and notify those who are in immediate danger and help us keep people safe. As we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone saves lives,” he said .

Using mobile broadcast technology, the Emergency Alert System will transform the UK’s warning and notification capabilities, providing a way to quickly send emergency messages to nearly 90% of mobile phones in designated areas, with clear instructions on how best to respond.

Tests were successfully carried out in East Suffolk and Reading as part of an action plan against an “evolving” threat landscape ahead of a UK-wide rollout.

“Alerts will only come from government or emergency services and they will issue a warning, always including details of the affected area and providing instructions on how best to respond – link to where people can receive further information,” the UK Cabinet Office said.

The service is already in use in many other countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it is widely credited with saving lives, for example during severe weather events.

Mark Hardingham, chairman of the National Fire Service, said: “Together with every fire and rescue service in the country, I look forward to Emergency Alerts helping us to do our jobs and help the community in the event of an emergency. “The Council of Chiefs.

“We’ve seen this type of system in action in other parts of the world and we’re looking forward to having the facility here in the UK – working with the fire service and our partners, we hope the system will help us help you like if a crisis were to happen. Here you go, you can,” he said.

Broadcast from cell towers near the emergency, the alert was described as “safe, free to receive and one-way”. The government said they would not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data, and that alerts could only be sent by authorized government and emergency service users.

“Being able to communicate timely and accurate warnings during an event is important to helping people take action to protect themselves, their families and their neighbors,” said Caroline Douglass, Executive Director of Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management at the Environment Agency.

“Emergency Alert is a fantastic addition to our toolbox that we can use in an emergency,” she said.

Emergency alerts will be used in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with initial use focused on the worst severe weather-related events, including severe flooding in England.

The UK government said it had been working closely with stakeholders and partners across the UK to develop the system, including colleagues from emergency services, transport groups and the Environment Agency.

(Aside from the title, this story is unedited by NDTV staff and published via a syndicated feed.)

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