If your iPhone or Android device suddenly starts making a loud sound at noon today, don’t be alarmed. It’s all part of a process of testing a nationwide emergency alert system that alerts Brits when there is an imminent threat to their lives. The first test of this new siren was rolled over to some devices last week, with a second alarm being tested between 1pm and 2pm today.
If you take the test, you will hear the tone and you will receive a text that reads: “This is a test by the cellular network operator of the emergency alarm service. You do not need to do anything.”
Users are also told to expect their devices to vibrate for around 10 seconds and the sound will be loud even if the device is switched to silent mode. They do not work when the device is turned off or in airplane mode.
Today’s event is believed to be held in parts of Reading, Berkshire, with emergency alerts sent from cell towers so that any compatible cell phone or tablet within range can pick them up.
Called Emergency Alerts by the UK government, the system was inspired by countries like New Zealand that have been using text messaging to warn citizens for some time.
It is hoped the alerts could be used to send messages of public health emergencies, as well as industrial accidents and terrorist attacks.
The Cabinet Office shared more details on the alert system, saying it would send out alerts outlining affected areas, advice on further action and a link to additional information.
If the tests are successful, the UK government hopes to be able to issue text warnings to millions by “summer 2021”.
The Cabinet Office added that instead of using people’s phone numbers, the system sends alerts to everyone in a specific area. The government also revealed the “do not reveal your location or collect personally identifiable information. Alerts can only be sent by authorized government and emergency medical service users”.
However, if users want, they can opt out of certain notifications through the Android or iOS settings, but the most important ones are always shown.