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

Following on from an Emergency Alert test on 25/05/2021 in East Suffolk, the UK Government is issuing another test to take place on 29/06/2021. Here’s everything you need to know about this second test. 

What are Emergency Alerts?

Emergency Alerts is a new service that the Government is employing to be able to contact people via their mobile phone if they are in an area of risk, or if there is a threat to life nearby.


How do they work?

Emergency Alerts are direct messages sent to all mobile phones that are compatible with 4G or 5G technology. You don’t need to provide your address or mobile phone number to be able to receive these alerts. 

If you receive a message, your phone will also emit a loud, siren-like sound. The message will inform you about the emergency nearby and the steps you should take to keep safe. 

You won’t be able to receive the alert if your phone is switched off, on Airplane Mode, or your device only runs on a 2G or 3G network. But don’t worry - you will be alerted through other channels, and you can visit gov.uk/alerts to check if a message is legitimate. 

Check your phone is compatible

On iPhones, go to:

Settings > Notifications > Emergency Alerts > Make sure the toggle is switched on (green)


On Android 11 phones, go to:

Settings > Notifications > Advanced Settings > Emergency Alerts > Make sure the toggle is switched on (blue)


On Android 10 OS or older, go to:

Messages > Settings > Emergency Alert settings > Emergency Alerts > Make sure the toggle is switched on (blue)

Individual models vary, so you may have to search for “Emergency Alerts” to find the feature. 


Why would I get an alert?

The test on the 29th June will be carried out between 1 - 2pm. You may receive an alert if you live near Reading, or are passing through the area at this time.

However, when the service goes live at the end of 2021, 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 (both during the test and once the service is live) based on your current location, not your home or work address. 

These messages occur automatically and are free of charge. You don’t need to visit a webpage or sign up to receive them. 

You do have the choice of opting out of receiving these alerts, but the Government strongly recommends you keep this feature 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 official Emergency Alerts page. 

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