New text message alert system to be trialled for public emergencies

By Claire Schofield
Sunday, 16th May 2021, 12:22 pm
The alert system will use 4G and 5G mobile operator technology (Photo: Shutterstock)
The alert system will use 4G and 5G mobile operator technology (Photo: Shutterstock)

Text message alerts warning the public of emergencies including terror attacks, fires and severe flooding are being developed by the government.

The texts will be sent if there is a threat to life and will build on the use of messaging during the coronavirus pandemic when people were advised to stay at home.

Public threat alerts

The government is trialling the messages this month among people in east Suffolk, with the texts warning of public emergencies and how to respond.

The alert system will use 4G and 5G mobile operator technology to text messages close to the incident of a scene which could pose a threat to life.

The messages will be received within 10 seconds of transmission and will alert any mobile phones which enter the area later.

As the system uses cell towers in the vicinity of an incident, the messages are free to receive and do not identify the location of the person receiving the message.

When alerted, a mobile phone receiving the notification should give a loud tone and vibration to convey the urgency of the situation.

When recipients receive a message, instructions will be included on how best to respond to an event, along with more information about the situation.

A similar system has been used in earthquake zones in the United States, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand, and has helped to save lives.

Trials this month

The pilot will be tested in east Suffolk later this month and if successful, will be made available across the UK later this year.

Residents who receive messages on 25 May will not need to respond, as any texts sent before the official launch are part of the testing process only.

Cabinet Office Minister Penny Mordaunt has said the tool is based on existing capabilities and will help to improve the public response to an emergency.

She said: “The Emergency Alerts service will be a vital tool in helping us to better respond to emergencies, both nationally and locally.

“This new system builds on existing capability and will allow us to more quickly and effectively get life-saving messages to people across the UK.”