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Emergency Alerts

Sometimes, when there’s an emergency, it’s useful to be able to contact as many people as possible to let them know what’s going on. That’s why this summer, the UK government has introduced Emergency Alerts.

These alerts come straight to your phone or tablet, and keep you informed when there’s been an incident nearby.

The types of alerts you might receive are to let you know about:

  • severe flooding
  • fires
  • explosions
  • terrorist incidents
  • public health emergencies

The UK government has been testing the emergency alert system this summer and there are more tests due to take place. If you get a test alert you won’t need to do anything – it’s just to make sure the system is working before the emergency alerts are rolled out across the country.

Who can send me an alert?

  • the emergency services
  • government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies

How do the alerts work?

The emergency alerts work just like a radio broadcast, so the government doesn’t need your phone number to be able to send you one. They come through like a text message.

They’re also based on your current location, not where you live or work – so you’ll only be notified about emergencies close to where you are when they happen.

What should I do if I get an alert?

If you get an emergency alert, your phone or tablet will vibrate and make a loud siren-like sound, even if it’s set to silent.

The alert will tell you what you need to do, and will include details about the emergency and where it’s happening. There might also be a link in the alert to the GOV.UK website, where you can find out more information.

Will the alert cost me anything?

The alerts are free of charge, so won’t use any of your texts or minutes allowance. They also don’t reveal any personal information or data about you.

Where can I find out more information?

If you’ve got more questions, the GOV.UK website has lots more about the Emergency Alerts service.

What are emergency alerts?
  • Emergency Alerts have been developed by the UK government so they can tell people about emergencies that happen locally and nationally.
  • Emergency Alerts are text-based messages broadcasted from cell towers in the emergency area using 4G and 5G networks. Any device in, or entering that area immediately receives the message.
  • The message will contain details of the emergency and tell people what to do to stay safe.
  • Their purpose is to help save lives in emergency situations by issuing a warning and clear instructions about how best to respond.
What do the messages look like?
  • You’ll see the Emergency Alerts appear on your phone or tablet’s home screen. You must acknowledge them before you can use your device’s other features.
  • The alerts appear as a text message notification and will include telephone numbers or website links containing further information.
  • When you receive the Emergency Alert, a loud, siren-like sound and vibration will accompany the message to raise awareness of the hazard or threat.
What should I do if I receive an Emergency Alert?
  • Read the message carefully. An Emergency Alert might include a link to gov.uk/alerts where you’ll find further information is contained, or there might be a helpline number you can call.
  • Alerts are sent to warn you when lives are in danger and, sometimes, for test purposes, so the actions you need to take will depend on what the message is about.
  • Once you’ve read the information in the message, follow the directions in the message. You might want to alert others in the area who may not have received or seen the message too.
Will emergency alerts work on all devices?

You should be able to receive Emergency Alerts on a majority of devices. However, there are some factors which might mean you will not receive an alert. These include:

  • Where a device connects to 3G or a 2G signal. This can often happen inside buildings. A device needs to be on 4G or 5G to receive the alert.
  • If the phone or tablet does not have the latest software update or the software update has not been released (older devices have a slower update cycle).
  • The device is not able to receive the alerts as it is no longer supported.
  • The device is not a 4G-enabled device.
  • The device was switched off.
  • The device was not connected to a mast broadcasting the Emergency Alert.
Do I need to update my phone to receive emergency alerts?
  • Yes, if it does not have the latest software. Most newer phones (from 2015 onwards) can receive the messages if they have the latest software update.
  • Phones over six years old might need some changes to the settings by the user.
  • Older models of Apple (before iPhone 6S) that do not support iOS 14 and older models of Android (generally older than Android 9 / Pie) will not be able to receive Emergency Alerts.
  • If you are unsure whether your phone can receive Emergency Alerts, contact us and we can help you.

 

If you have any other questions, you can find lots more information on the GOV.UK Emergency Alerts page