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Government to provide emergency alerts to phones


Mark Say Managing Editor

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The UK government is preparing to launch a new public emergency text alert system as part of a broader initiative to strengthen civil contingencies arrangements.

Named Emergency Alerts, it is expected to become available soon, with a public awareness campaign, and will focus on events such as extreme weather, flooding and wildfires when there is a risk to life.

It will involve all mobile phone masts in an affected area broadcasting the alerts, automatically finding all 4G and 5G mobile phones running on iOS 14.5 and Android 11 or later operating systems, and connected tablet computers. The Cabinet Office, which is supporting the initiative, said this will account for about 85% of total number of phones as those running on 2G and 3G are excluded.

The alerts will provide details of the threat, what to do and where to seek help.

Phone owners will not have to sign up to the service, but they will be able to opt out through the settings.

Stay safe

Ian Cameron, director of markets at the Met Office, commented: “The right messaging helps people take action to stay safe.

“It is clear that we are seeing an increase in the number of extreme weather events in the UK and overseas. Just this summer we have seen temperatures in the UK exceed 40C for the first time on record, followed closely by the heatwave which ended earlier this week.

“Communicating effectively is imperative so we can warn and alert people, ensuring they are aware and have more time to take action and look after themselves, their friends and family.”

Other measures in the initiative include the creation of a National Resilience Framework Team within the government’s COBR unit to look at the approach to risk and how it can be mitigated using live data.

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