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St George’s Day Emergency Alarm Test coming to all smartphones in the UK

An emergency siren will go off on nearly every smartphone in the UK on Sunday, 23 April 2023.

The 10 seconds of sound and vibration at 15:00 BST will test a new emergency alert system.

The Government will use the alert system to warn of extreme weather events, such as flash floods or wildfires. It may also be utilised during terror incidents or civil defence emergencies if the UK is under attack.

The minister in charge of the system, Oliver Dowden, said it would only be used in situations with immediate risk to life. In most cases, it will be targeted at particular areas rather than the entire country and, according to officials, may not be used for months or years.

The test message and alarm will hit 90% of mobile phones in the UK. Phone users can swipe away the alert message or click "OK" on their home screen to continue using their phone as usual.

People who have their phones switched off will not receive the message - but it will sound if your phone is in silent mode.

The government has also tried to address concerns that drivers will be distracted by the alerts, potentially leading to accidents. Evidence from local trials of the alert shows people will wait until they are stationary to check their phones.

All 4G and 5G Android and Apple phones are already fitted with emergency alert capability, as similar systems are used in the United States, Canada, Japan and other countries worldwide.

But it is possible to turn the alerts off, something domestic abuse charity Refuge is advising vulnerable people how to do ahead of the test. They have issued guidance at to help them.

Sources: BBC News, HM Government. Refuge

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