March 19, 2023

Public Emergency Alerts Service Launch

  • UK-wide Emergency Alerts service launched and in operation from today
  • System will bolster the UK’s resilience and provides the capability to send alerts direct to mobile phones when there is a risk to life
  • UK-wide test to take place on Sunday 23 April

The UK's mobile network operators are supporting the Government with the launch of its UK Emergency Alert service. The service will help to safeguard and protect lives across the UK if there is an incident of an emergenvy where there's a risk to life, eithe rlocally or nationally.

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 percent of mobile phones in a defined area; providing clear instructions about how best to respond.

The system is now ready to be tested across the country following successful tests in East Suffolk and Reading, as the Government continues to strengthen its resilience capability, making sure it offers the best possible protection against an ever-evolving range of threats.

A UK-wide alerts test will take place in the early evening of Sunday 23 April 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 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 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, Lead Minister for Resilience and 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 colleagues from 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 also only be sent by authorised Governmental and Emergency Services users. Successful live tests of the service have already taken place in East Suffolk and Reading.


Notes to editors

What does the alert look and sound like?

  • Emergency Alerts will appear on your device for 10 seconds and you will hear a loud siren-like sound for up to 10 seconds.
  • The alerts appear on your device's home screen - you have to acknowledge them before you can use your phone’s other features.  
  • They appear as a notification and may include telephone numbers or website links containing further information.  
  • A loud, siren-like sound and vibration will accompany the message to raise awareness of the hazard or threat.
  • You can see what they look and sound like here: [link to video].

About Cell Broadcasting

Cell broadcasting uses 4G and 5G mobile network operator technology to ensure free and targeted delivery of text-based alerts to all compatible mobile devices in a defined area. Benefits of cell broadcasting over SMS messages include: 

  • Speed of delivery - After the alert is sent from the issuing authority, the public should receive the message in about 4 to 10 seconds. SMS messages can take days to release when sent to the entire population and will not be received by those from outside the UK.  
  • Targeting of messages - Emergency Alerts allow a message to be broadcast to a defined area, meaning any compatible device in or entering that area immediately receives the message.  
  • Security - the public can be fully confident that only authorised organisations are able to send these Emergency Alert messages.
  • Privacy concerns - No personal information (such as telephone number, identity or location) is used in the sending of these alerts.
  • Effectiveness - the messages use a distinct tone and vibration that is hard to ignore and conveys urgency. The messages are designed to encourage recipients to act.
  • Future proofed - Emergency Alerts align to international standards, so your phone will warn you of danger if you are in one of the 19 other countries which use them.
  • Impact on the mobile network - The resources required to send a message are minimal, creating no network congestion for mobile networks.

What if you do not wish to receive the alerts?

  • People who do not want to receive these alerts can opt out of them in their device settings. However, given the life saving potential of the alerts we would urge everyone to remain opted in.

About Building Mobile Britain

Building Mobile Britain logo

Building Mobile Britain is a campaign created by Mobile UK seeking to work with national and local government, as well as interested industry groups to overcome the challenges we face with expanding the existing mobile networks, while also developing innovative services for customers.

See here for further information - or #BuildingMobileBritain

Media Contacts

Gareth Elliott
Head of Policy and Communications
Tel: 07887 911 076

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