Mobile phones across Britain will trigger a ‘loud siren-like’ alert this weekend
A “loud siren-like sound” will blare from mobile phones for up to 10 seconds across Britain on Sunday as part of a test for a new emergency alert system launched by the UK government.
Governments and institutions around the world use similar warning systems in life-threatening situations such as terrorist attacks and dangerous weather conditions. The alerts, which in many cases are sent as notifications or text messages, warn people in the path of danger to take cover or get to safety.
In Britain, the test of the alert service provoked a backlash from some, with some officials and organizations encouraging people to deactivate the service.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is happening?
People with smartphones across Britain, including visiting tourists, will receive an alert which the government has described as a “loud, siren-like sound” accompanied by a vibration, at 3pm on Sunday.
“It will appear on your device’s home screen and you must acknowledge it before you can use any other features,” the UK government said in an announcement about the alerts.
Alerts will be sent via mobile phone towers, which will broadcast warnings to anyone in danger. They are intended to be used “very infrequently”, the UK government said in a statement, adding that the alerts will only be used where there is “an immediate risk to people’s lives”.
Who else uses similar alert systems?
Similar alert programs are used around the world, including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Japan. They haven’t always been received favorably, as happened in Florida on Thursday when a test alert was sent out at 4:45 a.m.
Like how they will be used in Britain, the alerts are sent in the event of an emergency, such as a mass shooting, floods, forest fires, tornadoes and other natural disasters. When a gunman opened fire on the Michigan State University campus in February, students were alerted to the situation by text message and many waited for updates from the emergency system throughout the night.
In some cases, they have also been used to warn residents against using city water when operations at a water facility have been interrupted.
Some in the UK are unhappy with the alert.
Sunday’s test of the new emergency alert service has already provoked backlash. For some, the alert, which can sound for up to 10 seconds, is perceived as an annoyance. Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, told supporters the Twitter to “disable unnecessary and intrusive alerting”.
For others, the alert raised serious privacy concerns. Refuge, an organization that helps women and children who are victims of domestic violence, advises victims of abuse to turn off the service, lest phones hidden in their homes ring.
Responding to these criticisms, the UK government said it was working with organizations that work with “vulnerable women and girls to ensure they are not affected by the introduction of emergency alerts”, adding that it will be possible to withdraw if they need to. their phone to stay hidden.
Others worry the alerts could access personal information on phones, such as location data, but the UK government has said that shouldn’t be a problem as the alert system works through cell towers. mobile. Personal data and exact locations will not be collected or shared, the government said.
How can people avoid the alert?
Alerts can be disabled by searching a phone’s settings for “emergency alerts” and disabling “severe” and “extreme” alerts.
Britons can also avoid receiving the test alert on Sunday by turning off their phone or putting their phone on airplane mode for the duration of the test.
Not everyone will receive the test alert.
The alert will only sound on phones with the latest software available, such as iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later and Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later.
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