Emergency Alert, Sunday 23rd April – what to expect


On Sunday 23 April, there will be a national test of the UK’s new Emergency Alert service. The alert will work on all 4G and 5G phone networks in the UK on Apple devices that are compatible with iOS 14.5 or later and on Android devices that are able to run Android 11 or later. 

Uswitch.com mobile expert, Catherine Hiley, provides her input on what to expect from the alert on Sunday and how to opt out:

“Recent news reports have detailed the concerns surrounding the new emergency alert, with many referring to it as the ‘armageddon alert’. But it’s important to note that these alerts will only be sent when there is an immediate risk to people’s lives. 
“Domestic violence campaigners have also raised concerns that the alert could put people’s lives in danger by bringing attention to a secret phone. If you are concerned about the alert, you can opt out in your device’s settings or turn your mobile phone off during the test. 

How do emergency alerts work? 

“If there is an emergency, mobile phone towers in the surrounding region will broadcast an alert using 4G and 5G networks. The alert will be communicated to every compatible mobile phone or tablet in the tower’s range. It will come in the form of a text message, detailing the emergency and the actions people need to take.
“The government and emergency services will be able to raise alerts if there is ever a threat to life on a regional or national scale. This could include serious weather-related events, such as wildfires or flooding. 

Spread awareness: We need to remember that, in this day and age, almost everyone has a smartphone or a device that is compatible with the alert. Ahead of Sunday, explain to anyone who may not be aware of the alert that it is nothing to worry about and that it’s simply a test.

Opt out: Emergency alerts can be turned off across all devices. Unless the alerts are manually stopped, your device will only fail to trigger an alert if it is turned off, on airplane mode or connected to a 2G or 3G network. It’s worth noting that you will still receive the alert if your mobile is on silent and the alarm will sound regardless. 
“If you want to opt out of the alerts, simply search for ’emergency alerts’ in your device’s settings and turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’.

Don’t panic: There’s nothing you need to do and there is no reason to stress. This is simply a test alert and there is no threat. A message will appear on the home screens of mobile phones and tablets from 3 pm BST on Sunday, accompanied by a loud siren-like sound that will last for up to 10 seconds. The test alert will say: “This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby”. You don’t need to do anything. Just swipe away the message or click OK.”

Chris Price
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