What are Emergency Alerts?

No one wants to imagine the worst-case scenario for anything, but if an emergency does happen, it's important to act quickly and safely.

That's why the UK Government developed Emergency Alerts. This way, they can warn the public about impending danger, at both local and national levels.

If there's a risk to life near you, your device will receive an alert with information about how to stay alive.

How do Emergency Alerts work?

Emergency Alerts don't work like a normal notification or text message and will make a different noise. Your phone will emit a loud, siren-like sound and use a distinct vibration when an Emergency Alert comes through.

Using 4G and 5G networks, they will be broadcasted from cell towers in the vicinity of an emergency, so you get alerted fast.

Same as public radio announcements, Emergency Alerts do not require a phone number or address to be sent.

You will only receive notifications about emergencies near your current location, as Emergency Alerts are based on where you are presently.

Emergency Alerts are secure, free of charge and one-way, so you won't be tracked or have any of your personal information collected.

What to do if you receive an Emergency Alert?

When an Emergency Alert comes through, your phone will automatically vibrate and issue a loud, siren-type noise - even if it's set to silent. Don't panic, this is normal.

The alert will contain details about the emergency and what you should do if you're nearby.

There may also be a link to the UK Government Alerts hub, which should offer more information and/or an applicable helpline number.

Frequently Asked Questions

Emergency Alert may be sent for all sorts of reasons, such as:

  • Severe flooding
  • Fires
  • Explosions
  • Terrorist incidents
  • Public health emergencies

Most modern devices, such as smartphones and tablets, should pick up Emergency Alerts just fine.

However, there are some exceptions, including if the device:

  • Connects to 2G or 3G signal (only 4G and 5G bandwidths will pick up Emergency Alerts)
  • Doesn't have the latest software updates
  • Can't receive alerts because it is no longer supported
  • Isn't 4G or 5G enabled
  • Is switched off
  • Is in Airplane mode
  • Isn't connected to the mast providing the Emergency Alert

You should only receive Emergency Alerts from:

  • Emergency service numbers
  • UK Government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies

Please remember that Emergency Alerts are there to keep you safe and will not ask for any personal information.

Emergency Alerts are a free UK Government service and don’t cost anything.

They also don’t eat into your existing mobile phone plan, meaning your data, text and minutes allowances are all protected.

If an Emergency Alert comes through to your device, remain calm and read the instructions. It should provide all the information you need to act quickly and safely, as well as a helpline number to call if you’re unsure about anything.

How you act will depend on the type of emergency and message you receive.

Please read the message carefully and follow the instructions given. You may also wish to alert others in your local area who may not have received the message, providing that it’s safe to do so.

Emergency Alerts should appear as standard text messages or notifications on your device’s home screen. You must acknowledge them before accessing your device’s other features.

Any message/notification will contain important information about an emergency or test, so please make sure you read them thoroughly before acting.

Don’t worry if your device vibrates and/or makes a loud, siren-like sound; this is simply to raise awareness of the hazard or threat you’re being alerted to.

Yes. Emergency Alerts have been designed to attract attention. This means that compatible phones (see above for criteria) will emit a loud, siren-like sound so people with visual impairments aren’t excluded from being notified.

Some phones will also read the Emergency Alert out loud and can override volume settings.

Emergency Alerts use a distinct vibration type, too. Testing with users who have hearing aids demonstrated that the reserved tone is pronounced for these individuals in a unique way.

Likewise, for those with visual impairments, screen magnification will facilitate the reading of Emergency Alerts.

You MUST NOT hold a mobile phone while driving or riding a motorcycle. If you get an Emergency Alert out on the road, DO NOT pick up your phone or attempt to deal with the message.

Continue to drive as normal, staying in full control of your vehicle. If you feel the need to look at your phone, find a safe and legal place to pull over first.

Ensure your phone or tablet has the latest version of its software to receive Emergency Alerts promptly and without issue.

You can opt out of the Emergency Alerts system; however, the UK Government strongly advises against this, as it could jeopardise your safety.
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