Entertainment organisers move to limit disruption from emergency alert test
Spectators of sport and entertainment may face disruption on Sunday when millions of mobile phones across the UK will emit a loud alarm and vibrate at 3pm in a nationwide test of a new public alert system.
The trial of the system that aims to warn the public if there is a danger to life nearby will last for about 10 seconds.
The system is intended to be used in life-threatening situations including flooding and wildfires.
Organisers of the World Snooker Championship will pause play just before 3pm at the Crucible in Sheffield and it will resume following the alert.
The Society of London Theatre (Solt) said it had shared the Government’s guidance with its members and advised them to tell attendees to turn off their phones to “minimise disruption to shows”.
For cinema-goers who may be catching a film on Sunday afternoon, a Vue spokesperson said: “Before every screening at Vue, we encourage our customers to turn their mobile phones off in order to fully immerse themselves in the big screen experience.”
Meanwhile, drivers have been warned that it will be illegal to pick up their mobiles during the test, and domestic violence campaigners have warned the test could put people in danger by revealing the location of secret phones hidden by those at risk.
The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) warned people with hidden second mobile phones to turn off the alerts to avoid revealing the location of their devices.
The Government said it has been actively engaging with organisations working with vulnerable women and girls to ensure they are not adversely affected by the introduction of emergency alerts.
Officials stressed that it is easy to opt out of the system if people need their phone to stay concealed, either by turning off the alerts or simply having the phone switched off during the test.
The AA said motorists may prefer to switch off their electronic devices before Sunday’s test as laws banning the use of handheld phones will still apply.
Drivers caught holding a phone behind the wheel face six penalty points and a £200 fine.
The message will be received on 4G and 5G mobile phones, along with sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.
Phone users will be prompted to acknowledge the alert by swiping or clicking the message before being able to continue using their device.
The system is modelled on similar schemes in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.
The test on St George’s Day coincides with major events including the London Marathon and the 2pm kick-off Premier League ties between Bournemouth and West Ham, and Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur.
Officials said they have worked with the Football Association and the marathon’s organisers to make sure the impact of the test will be limited.
People who do not wish to receive the alerts will be able to opt out in their device settings, but officials hope the life-saving potential of the messages means that users will keep them on.
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