This Sunday, April 23, at 3pm, the UK government will conduct a test of its new emergency alerts system by sending a siren-like alert to smartphone users across the country. The test is expected to reach approximately 90% of phones and tablets in the UK, allowing the government and emergency services to send urgent messages to warn people of life-threatening situations such as flooding or wildfires. This system is already in use in countries like the Netherlands, the US, Canada, and Japan.
During the test, a message will appear on the home screens of devices, accompanied by a vibration and a loud warning sound that will ring for about 10 seconds, even if the phone is set to silent. The alert will state: “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 an actual 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.”
However, several charities, including Refuge and the National Centre for Domestic Violence, have raised concerns that this emergency alert could potentially put victims of domestic abuse in danger if they have a secret emergency handset. They are urging individuals who may be at risk, or those who know someone who could be at risk, to consider opting out of the alert. Additionally, elderly or vulnerable individuals who may have smartphones but may not be aware of the test alert should also be taken into consideration.
To opt out of emergency alerts, users can search their device settings for “emergency alerts” and turn off “severe alerts” and “extreme alerts.” It’s important to note that users will also not receive an alert if their phone is turned off or in airplane mode, if they are connected to a 2G or 3G network, or if they are using Wi-Fi only and not connected to a network.
The UK government’s emergency alerts system aims to provide timely warnings to the public in case of life-threatening emergencies. However, individuals who may be at risk due to domestic abuse or other vulnerable situations should take steps to opt out of the alert if necessary, to ensure their safety.