UK

A UK-wide emergency alert service is being launched today, ahead of a test on Sunday 23 April.

The alerts will be sent directly to mobile phones across the UK to warn people about life-threatening events such as wildfires and severe flooding, the government has said.

They will only come from the government or emergency services and will include details of the area impacted along with instructions about how to respond.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alerts system, to deal with a wide range of threats – from flooding to wildfires.

“It will revolutionise our ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger, and help us keep people safe.

“As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”

Successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading, the alerts will only be sent when there is an immediate risk to life, so it may be a period of weeks, months or even years between them.

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The government said that the alerts will be secure, free to receive, and will not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.

It is already possible to sign up to have flood warnings sent directly to your mobile from the Environment Agency in England, and its equivalents in Scotland and Wales.

What will the alert look and sound like?

The alert will appear on your device and you will hear a loud siren-like sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.

You will have to acknowledge the alert before you can use your phone’s other features.

The alert will appear as a notification and may include phone numbers or website links with further information.

You can see what they look and sound like at www.gov.uk/alerts

If you don’t want to receive the alerts you can opt out in your device settings.

Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, said: “We’ve seen this type of system in action elsewhere across the world and we look forward to having the facility here in the UK.

“By working together with fire services and partners we want this system to help us to help you be as safe as you can if a crisis does hit.”

Executive director for flood and coastal erosion risk management at the Environment Agency, Caroline Douglass, said: “Being able to communicate warnings in a timely and accurate manner during incidents is really important to help people take action to protect themselves, their families, and their neighbours.”

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