Exact time and date national emergency alert test will sound on mobile phones
The loud alarm will coincides with the London Marathon and several Premier League games
and live on Freeview channel 276
A loud alarm will go off on millions of mobile phones across the UK within weeks in a nationwide test of a new public alert system.
It will be tested on Sunday 23 April at 3pm, with the message to be received on 4G and 5G devices, along with sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.
When the alert sounds, phone users will be prompted to acknowledge the alert by swiping or clicking the message before being able to continue using their device.
The system is intended to be used in life-threatening situations to alert people there is a danger to life nearby, such as flooding and wildfires, and is modelled on similar schemes in the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan.
The government said the alert will only be used very rarely and will be sent where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives, so it is possible that phone users may not receive an alert for months or years.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said: “Getting this system operational with the national test means we have another tool in our toolkit to keep the public safe in life-threatening emergencies. It could be the sound that saves your life.”
The test on St George’s Day had originally been planned for the early evening but was moved to avoid clashing with an FA Cup semi-final, which kicks off at 4.30pm.
But it will still coincide with several major events including the London Marathon and the 2pm kick-off Premier League ties between Bournemouth and West Ham and Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur.
Officials said they have worked with the Football Association and the Marathon’s organisers to ensure the impact of the test will be limited.
National Fire Chiefs Council chairman Mark Hardingham said: “For 10 seconds the national test may be inconvenient for some, but please forgive us for the intrusion because, the next time you hear, it your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it.”
Anyone who doesn’t want to receive the alerts can opt out in their device settings, but officials say they hope the life-saving potential of the messages will see most users keep them on.
While the alert is designed to warn people of dangers, domestic violence campaigners have argued that the test could actually put people in danger by revealing the location of secret phones hidden away by those at risk.
The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) is urging those who have hidden second mobile phones to turn off the alerts to avoid having their devices discovered.
NCDV’s Sharon Bryan said: “Hidden second mobiles are an emergency lifeline for victims and survivors living under the constant threat of abuse, or worse. This siren test may unexpectedly reveal their presence to abusers – with disastrous consequences.”
The government said it has been actively engaging with organisations working with vulnerable women and girls to ensure they are not adversely affected by the introduction of emergency alerts.
Officials stressed that it is easy to opt out of the system if people need their phone to stay concealed, either by turning off the alerts or simply having the phone switched off during the test.
Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said: “Alongside partners, we will continue to listen carefully to public feedback and ensure the use of emergency alerts has a positive impact.”