Emergency alerts - what do they mean?

In 2023, the UK Government tested the Emergency Alert System. In February 2024, the first Emergency Alert was used in Plymouth.

Emergency alerts will only ever be issued by Government, or in some instances, the emergency services. The new Emergency Alerts service will enable people to be contacted via their mobile phone if their lives are at risk in an emergency. The service will be used to warn you about life-threatening emergencies such as severe flooding. Emergency Alerts are sent to compatible 4G and 5G mobile phones within an area of risk. They don’t need your location or phone number.  

So what will it sound like? 

It will sound very different to a normal text or notification. You’ll know if you get an Emergency Alert because you’ll hear a loud, siren-like sound and your phone will use a distinct vibration. A message will appear on your screen until you acknowledge it. If you are hard of hearing, your mobile phone will recognise the alert has been received and, depending on your phone’s features, the alert will work with screen magnification and may read the message out for you having also overridden volume settings. The unique noise emitted by the phone should also be audible for those who use a hearing aid. 

How can I find an Emergency Alert on my phone after I’ve acknowledged it?  

If you received an Emergency Alert on a compatible phone, you may still be able to view it on your phone after you have acknowledged it. On Android phones, the alert may be found in the Messages app or ‘Emergency Alert History’. For iPhone users, the alert will be in your notifications. You can access your notifications by swiping down from the top of your screen. If you delete your notifications, the alert will also be deleted 

If I want to know more about the alert system, where can I go for more information?  

For more information about Emergency Alerts, including what happens when you get an alert, reasons you might receive one and how it works, visit gov.uk/alerts. There is also an explainer video you can watch on the website to find out more. 

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