What you need to know about the Emergency Alerts test

By | March 27, 2023
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This week, I wanted to give you advance warning of a test that the government is running next month. It’s absolutely nothing to worry about, but it might give you a bit of a shock if you don’t know it’s coming!

They’re testing what’s called the Emergency Alert system. It’s a message that’s sent out to all mobile phones in case of emergencies – say, if there’s flooding or a major fire, and the authorities need to get people out. There’s a good chance you’ll never get one of these again after the test – but think of it like a fire drill. They want to test the equipment to make sure it works, and teach people what to do if they get an alert for real.

So this is how it’s going to work…

On Sunday 23rd April – some time in the early evening – there’ll be a signal sent out to all compatible phones in the UK. If your phone gets the signal, it will:

  • make a loud, siren-like sound (even if it’s set to silent)
  • vibrate
  • read out the emergency message

The government have made a little video (it’s only 13 seconds long) to show you what to expect – you can watch it on YouTube here.

For the test, you won’t actually have to do anything, but if you get a real alert, the message will give you instructions to follow to keep you safe.

One little snag is that it won’t work on all phones. You need to have a relatively modern one to get the signal – an iPhone running iOS 14.5 or later, or an Android phone running Android 11 or later. If yours is older than that, don’t panic – there’ll still be emergency announcements on the TV, over the radio and on social media.

The alert system isn’t like an ordinary text message or email. The government don’t need to know your phone number or email address to send it to you. The way it works is that they send out the signal to every device that’s connected to a particular mobile phone mast. That way, they can target the alert to just people who are in the affected area.

Your phone will get the alert if it’s a compatible model, turned on and has a mobile phone signal.

It’s possible to opt out of getting emergency alerts, but I don’t recommend it. In a real emergency, it could save your life. But if you really want to avoid the test on the 23rd April, the simplest way is to turn off your phone for a few hours between 3pm and 7pm.

I’ll be leaving mine on, though.

Till next week.

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