A new system that will give the Government and emergency services the capability to send an alert directly to mobiles phones when there is a risk to life has been launched.
Working with mobile broadcasting technology, the Emergency Alerts system will 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; providing clear instructions about how best to respond.
A UK-wide alerts test took place in the early evening of Sunday 23 April which people received a test message on their mobile phones. This comes after successful tests in East Suffolk and Reading.
The alerts will only ever come from the Government or emergency services, and they will issue a warning, always include the details of the area impacted, and provide instructions about how best to respond.
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 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.
Announcing the launch of the new alerts system, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP said,
“We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wild fires. 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 U.S. 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 the emergency services, transport groups and the Environment Agency.
By broadcasting from cell towers in the vicinity of an emergency, the alerts are secure, free to receive, and one-way. They do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data. Alerts can only be sent by authorised Governmental and Emergency Services users.