Government Emergency Alerts: What are they and how do they work?

The UK Government is testing a new emergency alert service on Tuesday 25th May. Here’s everything you need to know.

Last updated: 27th May 2021 at 10:29am

What are Emergency Alerts?

Emergency alerts are a new service that automatically alerts people via their phone or tablet if there’s a threat to life nearby. It’s expected to launch officially in summer 2021. 

How do they work?

If you get an alert, your smartphone or tablet will vibrate and emit a loud, siren-like noise. Don’t worry if your phone is on silent - the alert will still sound. You will have instructions to follow, such as a phone number or a link to the Government’s website. 

You won’t be able to receive the alert if your phone is switched off or on Airplane Mode. The alerts work on all 4G and 5G phones, but not on devices connected to a 2G or 3G network. 

Why would I get an alert?

For this initial test on the 25/05/2021, you may receive an alert if you live near, or are driving through, East Suffolk

However, when the service goes live, you could receive an alert if you are close to one of the following emergencies:

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

Things to know

You will receive an Emergency alert based on your current location, not your home address or work. 

These alerts happen automatically and free of charge. You don’t need to visit a webpage or sign up to be part of them. 

You do have the choice of opting out of receiving an alert, but the Government recommends you keep these alerts on for your own safety. 

You should ensure your device is updated to the latest version of its software - for iPhones, this is iOS 14, and for Androids, this is Android 11. 

For more information, you can visit the Government’s Emergency Alerts page.

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