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Public assured they can ‘simply swipe away’ emergency alert test

23 Apr 2023 5 minute read
Mobile phone screen. Image by Yui Mok/PA Images

The public have been assured they can “simply swipe away” a test of a new public alert system when it emits a loud alarm on millions of phones on Sunday.

Oliver Dowden, the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister, said no action was needed but in the future it might be the “sound that could save your life”.

The trial of a system designed to warn the public if there is a danger to life nearby will last for about 10 seconds at 3pm, with the alert being sent to every 4G and 5G device across the UK.

Once established, the system is intended to be used in life-threatening situations including flooding and wildfires.

Mr Dowden — who held on to his role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster after being promoted on Friday to Deputy Prime Minister following Dominic Raab’s resignation after a report into bullying accusations — said: “Keep calm and carry on — that is the British way and it is exactly what the country will do when they receive this test alert at 3pm today.

“The Government’s number one job is to keep people safe and this is another tool in the toolkit for emergency situations, such as flooding or wildfires, and where there is a genuine risk to life.

“So it really is the sound that could save your life.

“I would encourage people to remember that today it is just a test; there is no need to take any action and you can simply swipe it away as you would any other message you receive.”


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 users will keep them on.

Phones that are off or in airplane mode will not receive an alert.

The Cabinet Office compared the testing of the alert to a one-off fire drill. The department said the siren-like sound will be no more prominent than the loudest ringtone setting on a mobile.

Phone users will be prompted to acknowledge the alert by swiping or clicking the message before being able to continue.

The test message 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.

“In a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

“Visit for more information.

“This is a test. You do not need to take any action.”

Mobile phone emergency alert test: What will happen and why?

This weekend, the Government is trialling a system that aims to warn the public if there is a danger to life nearby.

Here is everything you need to know.

– What is going to happen?

Millions of mobile phones and tablets across the UK will emit a loud alarm and vibrate at 3pm on Sunday in a nationwide test of the new public alert system. The message will be received on 4G and 5G mobile phones, along with sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds. The alarm will sound even if the device is set on silent.

– Do I need to do anything?

Phone users will be prompted to acknowledge the alert by swiping or clicking the message before being able to continue using their device.

– What is the purpose of this system?

The system, which is modelled on similar schemes in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, is intended to be used in life-threatening situations including flooding and wildfires.

– Who sends the alerts?

Emergency alerts will only be sent by the emergency services or government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies.

– Should I turn on location services on my phone to ensure I receive alerts?

The Government said you will get alerts based on your current location – not where you live or work, and you do not need to turn on location services to receive alerts.

– What if the alert comes through when I am driving?

The Government is urging people to not read or respond to an emergency alert while driving or riding.

You are advised to find somewhere safe and legal to stop before reading the message, and if there is nowhere safe and legal to stop, and nobody else is in the vehicle to read the alert, you can listen to news on live radio to find out about the emergency.

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.

– Can I opt out of the 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.

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