Skip to the content

National emergency alerts system now operational

Emergency alert system logo
Image source: GOV.UK/Open Government Licence v3.0

The UK Government’s new emergency alerts system is now operational despite problems on one major mobile network during its first test.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden announced in Parliament that the system – which sends alerts to all mobile phones in an area that could be subject to a civil emergency – is now fully operable in the event of a real emergency.

This comes after its first nationwide test on Sunday 23 April when a significant minority of mobile phones, notably on the Three UK network, did not receive the alerts.

Dowden said it did work with the vast majority of 4G and 5G enabled devices, with an estimated 80% of the mobile phones in the UK responding, and that no security or public safety issues have been reported as a result of the test.

Fixes and further tests

He said the Cabinet Office is now working with Three UK to fix the problem encountered on its network, and with mobile network operators and other stakeholders to identify operational issues. It will also conduct further operational testing, although any more public tests are likely to be in the coming years rather than short term.

A further issue has been identified with the Welsh language version of the test message. Dowden said this has been attributed to an online system making a small autocorrect that rendered one word in Welsh incorrect.

In addition, “a very small number” of devices received more than one alert due to a few cellular masts continuing to broadcast after the end of the test, and people travelling between England and Wales as it took place would have experienced two alerts.

“Sunday’s test serves as an important development in the roll out of an emergency alerting system,” Dowden said. “It has allowed us to further validate the effectiveness of the system and build public awareness, familiarity and trust.”

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.