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Email Library: Emergency Alerts

Email Library: Emergency Alerts

The first nationwide test of a public warning system that sends alerts to UK mobile phones will take place at 3pm on Sunday 23 April.

The government was criticised during the pandemic for lagging behind other countries on the technology and repeatedly ignoring its own findings that an emergency messaging system could help Britain at a time of crisis. Countries such as the Netherlands and South Korea used alerts to control the spread of Covid. Similar systems exist in other countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.

The national test comes 10 years after the Cabinet Office conducted its first successful trials. In 2013 the government concluded that “not only would alerts be seen as a useful service by the public but that it would also be an effective way of getting people to take specific protective action during an emergency”.

The chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said: “We must use every tool at our disposal to keep people safe, and we need everyone to play their part – and the new emergency alerts system is one way we can do this. For 10 seconds, the national test may be inconvenient for some, but please forgive us for the intrusion, because the next time you hear it – your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it.”

The alert

The emergency alerts system is designed to broadcast urgent messages in the event of a disaster such as severe flooding, fires or extreme weather.

Mobiles with a 4G or 5G signal will emit a loud siren-like sound, receive a message on their home screen and vibrate for up to 10 seconds.

Opting out

But with every action done in line with the “greater good” there are always implications that may not be immediately obvious. For example, those with epilepsy, autism or anxiety disorders a who have sound hypersensitivity.

Domestic abuse victims are also being urged to disable the alerts if they have concealed phone in their possession for their own safety. 

The details on the information page also suggests that people may get more than one reminder about the same emergency alert and that tablets, as well as smart phones could be affected. There is an FAQ document that gives more information too.

“Victims’ Commissioner Nicky Brennan said: “I know first hand of many victims of domestic abuse who have a concealed phone as a lifeline, allowing them to keep in touch with friends and family or to be used in an emergency.

“While the emergency alert system is understandable, it is also vital we raise awareness that this can be switched off for those who need it.

“I urge anybody who has a concealed phone for their own safety to switch off these alerts.”

Assistant Police and Crime Commissioner Tom McNeil added: “Sadly too many people, particularly women, are living with an abusive partner and find themselves needing to have secret phones in case of an emergency. That’s why we’re working to raise awareness on how to switch this alert off in case you are put at increased risk from a partner finding out you have a secret or secondary phone.

“Even if your phone is set to silent it will still go off, so please see our guidance on how to disable the alerts.”

Charities like Refuge have created brilliant clear, accessible guidance on how to opt out.

Email Library templates

We have created a series of emails to support the national toolkit that include information about the test and details about what you need to do to opt out, which can be sent to vulnerable groups and those working with vulnerable groups. 

The more informed your residents are about the test prior to the day the better we can manage the number of calls to both council and emergency contact numbers that may occur as a result.

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