The UK Emergency Alerts System Explained

Uk Emergency Alerts System

“Emergency alert!” Those two words instantly send a jolt through our systems, demanding attention and a quick response. By understanding their importance and staying informed, we can build resilient communities and navigate emergencies with greater awareness and preparedness. The UK emergency alerts system is the very same and warns you if there is a life-threatening situation nearby. It is our responsibility to take such messages seriously because knowledge is power – the power to keep ourselves and those around us safe.

How Does The UK Emergency Alerts System Roll?

The system was launched on 19 March 2023 and tested nationwide for the first time on 23 April 2023. UK emergency alerts system is tested every two years and rolls the following way:

  • You will receive an emergency on your phone or tablet along with advice on how to stay safe. 
  • The public will receive the alerts on their 4G and 5G mobile phones, along with sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.
  • The alerts will be used across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and their initial use will focus on the most serious severe weather-related incidents, including severe flooding. 
  • The alerts are secure, free to receive, and one-way, and they do not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data. 

History Of The UK Emergency Alerts System

The UK came up with this emergency alert system called the Wartime Broadcasting Service back in the Cold War. Its job was to make sure folks in the UK stayed in the loop after a major wartime disaster, like a nuclear blast or heavy bombing.

Situations In Which You Can Recieve An Alert

You may receive emergency alerts in the UK about severe events like:

  • Flooding – Environment Agency flood alerts notify communities at risk from overflowing rivers, coastal storm surges, burst river banks etc. Warnings are location-specific.
  • Fires – Local fire brigades can send warnings about large building/forest fires to nearby areas, especially if smoke or flames present a danger.
  • Extreme weather – The Met Office issues regional weather warnings about events like storms, lightning strikes, blizzards, extreme heat etc.
  • Industrial accidents – Local authorities or emergency services can warn about incidents at factories, plants, or the transport of hazardous goods.
  • Terrorist threats – Police can send alerts to mobile phones about imminent dangers to life using cell broadcast technology.

What Will The Message Say?

Just a heads up, if you receive a test alert on your phone, it’s all good – it’s just a trial run for the new Emergency Alerts service by the UK government. This service is designed to notify you in case there’s a serious emergency nearby, giving you instructions to stay safe. However, the text messages can look like this: 

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

What Will You Need To Do In Such Situations?

When you receive a message from the UK emergency alerts system, pause for a moment and make sure to follow the instructions it gives you.

  • If you’re behind the wheel or on the road when an alert comes through, don’t even think about checking it while driving or riding.
  • Find a safe spot to pull over before reading the message. If there’s absolutely nowhere to stop safely and you’re the only one in the vehicle, you can tune in to live radio for updates on the emergency. 
  • Just a reminder: it’s against the law to use your phone while driving or riding. 

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Will The System Protect Your Personal Data?

According to the Cabinet Office, there won’t be any snooping on your device or tracking your exact whereabouts.

Mobile phone towers will send out the alerts to all the phones and tablets in the area that can receive them.

No need for the government or emergency services to have your mobile number or any other personal info. 

Cell Broadcast Trail & Implementation

The emergency alert system in the UK saw the following procedures happening before it kicked in full-fledged.

  • UK started working on an emergency alert system back in 2020, teaming up with Cell Broadcast and UK mobile networks.
  • Testing kicked off in March 2021 in Reading, thanks to the Flood Information Service.
  • They gave the system a spin on public channels in May and June.
  • Finally, they rolled it out nationwide in October 2022.
  • It works on iOS 14.5+ and Android 11+, and might even work on older Android gadgets.
  • The launch got pushed to October because of heat alerts.
  • You’ll only get alerts if you’re hooked up to 4G or 5G networks.
  • The alert sound is like what they use in the US Emergency Broadcast System.
  • And hey, if you’re not into alerts, you can totally opt out.


Emergency alerts in the UK might make your phone scream, but remember, this shrill symphony is a chorus of care. In the face of floods, fires, and lurking perils, these alerts are your lifeline, offering a clear route to safety amidst the chaos. So, the next time the sirens sing, don’t let fear drown out the message. Take a deep breath, follow the instructions, and the power rests in your hands to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. 


Why is the UK having an emergency alert?

The alert system is designed to ping your mobile phone or device and give you a heads-up about any serious life-threatening dangers nearby. 

Why didn’t my phone receive the emergency alert?

There could be a couple of reasons why you didn’t receive the emergency alert. If your device was powered off, in aeroplane mode, only connected to WiFi, or linked to a 2G or 3G network. 

When was the last time the UK emergency alerts system went off? 

It last took place on 23rd April 2023. 

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