A new service from the Government will see people receiving “danger to life” emergency alerts  direct to their mobile phones.

Expected to launch in early 2022, the notifications will warn recipients if there’s a danger to life nearby.

In an emergency, your phone or tablet will receive a message with advice on how to stay safe.


What happens when you get an alert

When you get an emergency alert your phone or tablet may:

  • Make a loud siren-like sound lasting about 10 seconds even on silent mode
  • Vibrate for around 10 seconds
  • Read out the alert

Reasons you might get a government emergency alert

If you receive an emergency alert in the near future, that could be because you are in, or have passed through, an area receiving test emergency alerts.

When the service goes live, you may receive a notification about severe flooding, fires, explosions or public health emergencies.

What to do if you get a government emergency alert

The government and mobile phone networks are currently testing emergency alerts so you may receive one if you live in, or travel through, a test area.

If your mobile device does receive an emergency alert, the Government's advice is to, first of all, stop what you are doing.

It is illegal to use a hand-held device while driving or riding so if you are in charge of a vehicle at the time, find somewhere safe to stop before reading the message.

Follow the instructions given in the notification – there may be a telephone number to call or a link to the gov.uk for further information about the situation.

Bournemouth Echo: What a government emergency alert will look like. Picture: gov.ukWhat a government emergency alert will look like. Picture: gov.uk

How the government sends emergency alerts to mobile phones

Emergency alerts will only be sent by the emergency services or government departments, agencies and public bodies dealing with emergencies and, for most, the chance of receiving an alert will be fairly low.

The government does not need phone numbers to send the notifications as they work like a radio broadcast using mobile phone masts.

This means every compatible mobile phone or tablet in range will receive the alert without the need for contact details. In addition to this, data about you, your device or your location won’t be collected.

Notifications will be received based on current location, not where a person lives or works, but if a device is turned off or in aeroplane mode it won’t be able to receive the alert.

You don’t need to sign up for alerts, there is no app to download and they don’t cost anything to receive.

You can opt out of some emergency alerts, but it is advised to keep them switched on for your own safety.

What devices government emergency alerts work on

To make sure you receive these notifications, people are being encouraged to ensure devices have all the latest software updates.

Phones and tablets

Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later and iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later are able to receive alerts and earlier versions of Android may still be able to receive alerts.

If you want to know if your phone is ready to receive the messages, check settings for ‘emergency alerts’.

Mobile phone networks

Emergency alerts work on all 4G and 5G phone networks in the UK but those using a 2G or 3G network will not be able to receive the emergency alerts.

If your device is not compatible, the emergency services have other ways to warn you when lives are in danger such as local news, radio, television and social media.