UK Emergency Alert System

April’s Emergency Alert test results in several failures

The emergency services and the UK government do not need your phone number to send you an alert.

The UK Government sent it’s first UK wide emergency alert Sunday, which resulted in numerous dismal failures.

Three customers reported they did not receive any alert, others received it early, with others receiving it late.

A review will be conducted to find out why a ‘very small proportion of mobile users’ did not receive the test of a new national emergency alert system on Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

The Cabinet Office said the ‘vast majority of compatible phones’ received the alert as part of what was said to be the biggest public communications exercise carried out in the UK.

But the government department said it was aware that the 10- second alarm and message notification was not delivered to some mobile phones.

Tens of millions of phones across the UK emitted the 10-second siren, which sounded at shortly before 3pm, accompanied by a message which popped up on phones explaining that it was a test and people did not need to take any action.

“This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.

“In a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

“Visit for more information.

“This is a test. You do not need to take any action.”

The siren-like sound, which the Cabinet Office assured would be no more prominent than a mobile’s loudest ringtone setting, sounded on all 4G and 5G devices unless they had been turned off or were in airplane mode.

Three – which has been paid up to £3.6million for their part in the rollout – stated they are ‘aware’ of the issue and are working with government ‘to understand why’ it occurred.

A Three spokesman said:

‘We are aware that a number of customers have not received the test alert. We are working closely with the government to understand why and ensure it doesn’t happen when the system is in use.’

Some Britons complained that the alert was early – it had been expected to go off at 3pm exactly – while others said they did not receive the alert at all. 

Most said the alarm was not synchronised, with family members on different mobile networks receiving the alert at different times. 

A UK Government spokesman said: ‘We have effectively completed the test of the UK-wide Emergency Alerts system, the biggest public communications exercise of its kind ever done.

‘We are working with mobile network operators to review the outcome and any lessons learned.’

Emergency Alerts System

Two years ago, the UK Government launched its Emergency Alerts warning service, with public trials in East Suffolk and Reading. Today, the system went fully operational.

Emergency Alerts are a public information service that the Government has developed to alert citizens to emergencies, both nation-wide and in their local area, that represent a severe threat to life and/or property.

They are text-based messages that will be broadcast from cell towers to people’s mobile devices, detailing the emergency and actions people need to take to ensure their safety. Emergency Alerts will be sent across all networks.

Emergency Alerts appear on your device’s home screen. You have to acknowledge them before you can use your device’s other features. They appear as a notification and may include telephone numbers or website links to further information.

A loud, distinct tone and vibration is usually associated with the message to raise awareness of the hazard or threat.

Stop what you’re doing and follow the instructions in the alert. Read the content carefully. An Emergency Alert is likely to include a link to where further information is contained, and/or a helpline.

If you’re driving when you get an alert, find somewhere safe to stop before using your phone or tablet. It is illegal to use a hand-held device while driving, even when receiving an emergency alert.

You may get alerts about severe flooding, fires, explosions, terrorist incidents or public health emergencies. Emergency alerts will only be sent by the emergency services and/or government departments, agencies and public bodies that deal with emergencies.

For most people, the chance of receiving an alert will be low.

What you need to know

The emergency services and the UK government do not need your phone number to send you an alert. You will get alerts based on your current location – not where you live or work.

No one will collect or share data about you, your device or your location when you receive an alert. No personal information (such as telephone number, identity or location) is used in the sending of any Emergency Alert.

Emergency alerts are free and you do not need to sign up for them or download an app. You can opt out of some emergency alerts, but you should keep them switched on for your own safety.

To opt out of Emergency Alerts

  • Search your settings for ‘emergency alerts’.
  • Turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’.

Phone handsets and devices

Make sure your device has all the latest software updates. Emergency alerts work on iPhones running iOS 14.5 or later and Android phones and tablets running Android 11 or later.

Factors which might mean you will not receive an alert

There are some factors which might mean you will not receive an alert. These include:

  • A device needs to be on 4G or 5G to receive the alert. To note, a device that is normally on 4G or 5G can often connect to a 3G or a 2G signal inside buildings.
  • The device does not have the latest software update or the software update has not been released (older devices have a slower update cycle).
  • The device is not able to receive the alerts as it is no longer supported.
  • The device is not a 4G-enabled device.
  • The device was switched off. Although if you are in proximity to a cellular tower when the alert is broadcast, you will receive the alert when your phone is switched back on.
  • The device was not connected to a mast broadcasting the Emergency Alert.