A new system has been launched that will provide the UK government and emergency services with the ability to send alerts directly to cell phones when there is a risk to life.
Working with mobile broadcasting technology, the emergency alerts system will help deliver urgent messages to nearly 90% of cell phones in a defined area, providing clear instructions for how best to respond.
The service has already been used in several countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it has been widely credited with saving lives, for example, during severe weather events. In the UK, alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached on by wildfires or severe flooding.
The system is now ready to be tested across the country following successful tests in East Suffolk and Reading. A UK-wide alerts test will take place in the early evening of Sunday, April 23, when people will receive a test message on their cell phones.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP, 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 revolutionize 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.”
Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said, “Together with every fire and rescue service in the country, I’m looking forward to having emergency alerts available to help us to do our jobs and to help communities in the event of emergencies. 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.”
Caroline Douglass, executive director for flood and coastal erosion risk management at the Environment Agency, commented, “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 neighbors. This year is the 70th anniversary of the 1953 East Coast surge, one of the worst flood events in our recent history, which saw over 300 people perish in England. While our ability to warn and inform has come on in leaps and bounds since then, Emergency Alerts is a fantastic addition to our toolbox that we can use in emergency situations.”