The Government’s new Emergency Alerts system is live, enabling people to be contacted through their mobile phone in the event of there being a danger to life near to where they are, for example severe flooding or fire in their area.
The Government plans to test the system by sending a national test alarm to all smartphones that use 4G and 5G phone networks, at 3pm on Sunday 23 April 2023. Older, ‘non-smart’ phones will not receive the alarm.
On that day, compatible mobile phones across the UK will sound the alarm – a siren and vibration, lasting for up to 10 seconds.
This is just a test, but the expected alarm has highlighted concern for anyone who is living with an abusive person, who then may hear the test siren and become aware of a secret or second phone.
And some charities and support groups for survivors of domestic abuse are raising awareness of this possibility.
The Government’s frequently asked questions say that it’s possible to unsubscribe from receiving emergency alerts, although they recommend people don’t because they’re potentially life-saving.
But, “you can opt out of the emergency alerts system in your phone’s settings,” they say. “Just search for “emergency alerts”, and turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’. You will not receive alerts if your device is turned off or in airplane mode.”
The Government’s website adds that you will not receive alerts if your device is connected to a 2G or 3G network; Wi-Fi only; or not compatible.