Emergency Alerts – everything you need to know

On Sunday 23rd April at 3pm, the government will test a new emergency alerts system nationwide for the first time. Although the government has sent out nationwide text messages before, emergency alerts will be more than just a text message, so it is worth taking a moment to understand what to expect and how you can make sure you will be able to receive them moving forward.

What are emergency alerts?

As the name suggests, emergency alerts will be notifications that are sent to your mobile phone or tablet to warn you when there is an emergent danger to life in your area. Examples the government have given of what emergency alerts may be sent for include extreme weather, severe flooding and fires. The alerts will give information about the emergency and provide advice for staying safe whilst the situation is ongoing.

What can I expect from the emergency alert test?

At 3pm, all eligible devices should receive the alert. Regardless of whether or not your phone or tablet are on silent, you can expect it to make a sound similar to a siren. The alert may also make the device vibrate or read the message aloud, to make it as accessible and noticeable as possible. The message will appear on your device’s screen in similar fashion to a text message or push notification. The government has shared a video of how emergency alerts work that gives an indication of what this will look like.

Sunday’s initial test will be sent to all eligible devices across the country regardless of their location, although If you are in Wales the message may be sent in both English and Welsh. Its message content will make clear that the alert is a test and no action is needed from you – perhaps picture it a bit like a nationwide fire alarm test!

Future genuine alerts will only be sent to devices in affected areas. These will include a phone number or a link to the GOV.UK website, where you will be able to find further information and advice regarding the situation the alert has been sent for.

How can I make sure my phone will receive emergency alerts?

Compatible devices for receiving emergency alerts are iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later and Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later, so it is worth making sure your device is up-to-date. Apple have shared an article on how to update iOS on iPhone and Google have shared an article on how to check and update your Android version – note that there may be slight wording differences from the steps based on what make of Android phone you have.

Emergency alerts will be sent over 4G or 5G networks, meaning devices that are only connected to 2G or 3G networks will not be able to receive them. Our support article show how you can check if your device is 3G or 4G if you are not sure.

All compatible devices will be sent emergency alerts regardless of their network and you do not need to provide a phone number or have location services turned on – if your device is compatible and within range of a mast, it should be able to receive the alert regardless of whether or not it is connected to mobile data or WiFi.

Devices that are switched off, in airplane mode or only have a WiFi connection will not receive emergency alerts, in addition to those which are incompatible or only have a 2G or 3G connection.

What should I do if I receive an emergency alert?

If you receive a genuine emergency alert some time after the test on Sunday, the government advice is to stop what you are doing and follow the instructions provided by the alert.

If you are riding a motorcycle or driving on your own and cannot have the alert read by someone else, you are advised to find somewhere safe and legal to stop so that you can read the message. If this is not possible for some time, instead try listening for any bulletins that may be given on the radio until you reach somewhere you will safely and legally be able to stop.

If there is an emergency alert you want to see again, the government has created pages for current alerts and past alerts on the GOV.UK website where you can check the information given again if needed.

If you want to know any more about emergency alerts, the government have shared all relevant information at www.gov.uk/alerts.

Can I turn off emergency alerts?

We appreciate that there are a number of reasons why someone may not want to receive emergency alerts, whether it is simply a matter of personal preference or their high visibility being undesirable in your circumstances.

Although the government advises you to keep emergency alerts active for safety reasons, they have also provided the option to opt out of receiving them. To do so, go to settings on your device and search for ‘emergency alerts’. From there, you may have slider options for ‘Allow alerts’, ‘Extreme alerts’ and ‘Severe alerts’ – turn these off as preferred

As previously mentioned, a switched off phone will not receive alerts and so this is another simple way to make sure you are not disturbed by one.

  • SMARTY Team
  • April 19th, 2023