UK Government to Test Sending Emergency Alerts to Mobile Phones
The UK government is to carry out tests of an emergency alert service that can broadcast messages to mobile phones.
Three tests in specific parts of Yorkshire, Suffolk and Glasgow are intended to test how various alerting technologies work and the public's reaction to them, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude announced.
Francis Maude said that the government and three of the four main mobile phone companies O2, Vodafone and EE, will conduct separate tests later this year to look at a how different technologies work and how the public react when they receive an emergency alert to their phone.
Messages will be sent to mobile phones in the test areas by SMS in parts of Suffolk and Glasgow, and by SMS and Cell Broadcasting in parts of Yorkshire.
In total approximately 50,000 people across the 3 areas may receive the messages.
'Cell broadcast' is the transmission of a text-type message to a defined geographic area. The mobile phone network is split into 'cells' with a mast at the centre, these range in size depending where you are in the country. During cell broadcasting, cells can be selected and a message broadcast to every active handset within it.
Cell broadcast operates on a different channel to voice and SMS (texts) and therefore does not suffer from nor contribute to network congestion. Personal data such as telephone numbers or user data are not required as the message is sent to all handsets in the area.
The ability to warn and inform the public when responding to the wide range of disruptive challenges the UK faces is a key component of any response. This is reflected in the inclusion in the Civil Contingencies Act (2004) of a statutory duty for category 1 responders to maintain arrangements to warn and inform the public in times of emergency. The Strategic Defence and Security Review (2010) set out the government's commitment to 'evaluate options for an improved public alert system.' The Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) have since been working to understand where the current gaps in the UK's alerting capability are and how they can be addressed in order to fulfil this commitment.