On April 23rd, the UK government is set to test a new “emergency alerts” notification system that will send an emergency warning test message to every mobile phone user in the country. While the system is purportedly designed to improve communication during times of crisis, some are questioning its true purpose and effectiveness.
Protecting the Public?
The government claims that the new emergency alert system is being developed in response to potential threats such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or public health emergencies. The goal is to create a more effective and comprehensive means of communication to help save lives and coordinate resources during emergencies. However, given the UK government’s track record with technology, (cough “Track and Trace” in Microsoft Excel), some are sceptical about the true motivations and potential effectiveness of the project.
The Proposed Test: Is It Necessary?
The test on April 23rd will send a test message to every mobile phone user in the UK, accompanied by an on-screen notification and a siren sound—even if the phone is in silent mode. For some, the idea of an unavoidable siren sound is intrusive and raises privacy concerns. Additionally, the proposed use of the system for “weather” alerts is puzzling to me, given that the UK is well known for its crazy extreme weather conditions.
What to Expect on April 23rd
On the day of the test, mobile phone users in the UK should expect the following:
An emergency alert test message: This on screen notification will clearly state that it is a test and not a real emergency. It will also include the time and date of the test.
The message for UK residents 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 an actual emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.
Visit gov.uk/alerts for more information.
This is a test. You do not need to take any action.
For citizens in Wales, this will also be translated into Welsh. This message will be accompanied by a siren sound – even if your phone is in silent mode, you will hear a siren sound to accompany the test message. This is to ensure that emergency alerts are not missed during critical situations.
Disabling Emergency Alerts
Considering these concerns, some individuals may choose to disable the emergency alerts functionality on their phones. This decision is ultimately a matter of personal preference and depends on one’s trust in the government’s intentions and ability to execute the system effectively. However, it’s essential to weigh the potential benefits of receiving emergency alerts against the perceived intrusion and potential ineffectiveness of the system.
To disable emergency alerts on Android, go into Settings and search for “Alerts”, there is an option to disable all alerts or just the alerts you want to disable.
As this is just a test, there is no need for UK residents to take any specific action in preparation. However, it’s a good idea to be aware of the test and share this information with friends and family to avoid confusion or panic on the day. You can also use this opportunity to review your personal emergency plans and ensure that you are prepared for any future emergencies.