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The U.K. is testing a new emergency alert system that will see every phone in the country ring out an alarm on April 23.

The government’s new emergency alerts service is designed to warn citizens if their life is at risk. The alert will sound during events such as severe flooding, fire or terrorist attack.

The U.K. has performed regional tests of the service over the past year, but now plans to conduct a nationwide test on April 23. All compatible phones will sound a siren for ten seconds and display a warning message until it is dismissed by the user. The alarm will sound even if the phone is on silent.

The government has released a YouTube video revealing what the alert sounds like to hopefully prevent catching people out on the test day.

The test alert – which will reportedly be carried out during the evening of April 23 – could cause disruption in public venues such as theaters, cinemas and sports stadiums, with potentially hundreds or thousands of mobile phones all sounding the alarm simultaneously.

Will your phone get an emergency alert?

The emergency alert service is compatible with all phones running either iOS 14.5 or later or Android 11 or later. Tablets with access to cellular networks will also receive the alerts.

When sounded for real, the alerts will be sent to everyone in the affected area, based on their current location. The alerts will be sent to all devices within reach of cellular masts in the affected areas. Users won’t have to opt-in and they don’t need location services switched on to receive the alerts.

The government insists that the alerts service is secure and that only government departments and the emergency services have the ability to send alerts. There is a website listing past alerts, so that citizens can check if they believe they’ve been targeted by a false alarm.


Alerts while driving

Both the test alert and genuine alarms will be sent to all devices, including those where the owner is driving.

The U.K. government warns that drivers “should not read or otherwise respond to an emergency alert whilst driving or riding a motorcycle”.

“If you are driving, you should continue to drive and not respond to the noise or attempt to pick up the mobile phone and deal with the message,” the government adds.

“Find somewhere safe and legal to stop before reading the message. If there is nowhere safe or legal to stop close by, and nobody else is in the vehicle to read the alert, tune into live radio and wait for bulletins until you can find somewhere safe and legal to stop.”

Opting out of emergency alerts

There is a way to switch off the emergency alerts on your phone, even temporarily, if you don’t want to be disturbed on the evening of April 23.

To switch the alerts off, go to your phone’s Settings app and search for “emergency alerts”. You should find options there to switch off emergency alerts, as shown in the screenshot below.


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