Mobile phone users should receive an emergency alert in the nationwide test on April 23
A siren-like emergency alert message will be sent to mobile phone users across the UK by the government next month in a test of a new public alert system.
Phone users will not be able to use other features on their devices unless they acknowledge the alert, which is set to be sent on Sunday April 23.
The system – modeled on similar systems in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan – is intended to be used in life-threatening situations such as floods and wildfires.
St George’s Day alerts will appear on people’s phone home screens, accompanied by a loud warning beep and vibration.
The program will initially focus on the most severe weather-related events, with the ability to send an emergency message to 90% of mobile users within the relevant area.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden, said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alert system to deal with a wide range of threats – from floods to wildfires.
“It will revolutionize our ability to warn and inform people who are in imminent danger and help us protect people.
“As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, a phone’s buzz can save lives.”
People who don’t want to receive the notifications can opt out in their device settings, but officials are hoping the messages’ life-saving potential means users keep them on.
The alerts will only ever come from the government or emergency services, and they will provide details of the affected area and instructions on how best to respond.
The Cabinet Office said the alerts were safe, free to receive and one-way, and insisted they would not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal information.
The service has already been tested in East Suffolk and Reading.
The system could eventually be expanded to cover terrorist incidents, but officials conceded much more information on how the UK’s alert system works would be needed before it could be done in response to a fast-moving attack.
National Fire Chiefs Council Chairman Mark Hardingham said: “As with all fire and rescue services across the country, I look forward to having emergency alerts available to help us do our jobs and help communities in the event of an emergency.
“We have seen this type of system in action elsewhere in the world and look forward to having the facility here in the UK – through working with fire services and partners we want this system to help us help you be as safe as possible.” be as you can when a crisis hits.”
Caroline Douglas, Executive Director for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management at the Environment Agency, said: “It is really important to be able to provide timely and accurate alerts when incidents occur, to help people take action to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours. “