The U.K. launched a national emergency alerts service on March 19, which will send alerts direct to mobile phones when there is a risk to life.
Working with mobile broadcasting technology, the Emergency Alerts system will provide a means to get urgent messages quickly to nearly 90 percent of mobile phones in a defined area; providing clear instructions about how best to respond.
A U.K.-wide alerts test will take place in the early evening of April 23, which will see people receive a test message on their mobile phones.
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 – linking to gov.uk/alerts where people can receive further information.
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 U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it has been widely credited with saving lives, for example, during severe weather events. In the U.K., alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached by wildfires, or of severe flooding.
“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,” said Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham. “We’ve seen this type of system in action elsewhere across the world and we look forward to having the facility here in the U.K. – 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 that 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 neighbors. “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,” Douglass said.
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 authorized Governmental and Emergency Services users. Successful live tests of the service have already taken place in two regions of the U.K.