‘Keep Calm, Carry On’: UK tests first-ever phone-based emergency alert
The UK government issued a “Keep Calm and Carry On, this is just a test” message for its first-ever life-saving Emergency Alerts warning system, sent to every 4G and 5G enabled smartphone device in the country on Sunday.
A major awareness campaign was launched at 3 pm local time to ensure the British public was aware of the new system’s test. The alert has been described as an additional tool in Britain’s resilience toolkit when there is an imminent risk to life – such as floods or wildfires.
“Keep Calm and Carry On – that is the British way, and it is exactly what the country will do when they receive this test alert at 3 pm today,” said Oliver Dowden, UK Cabinet Office minister and newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister after the exit of Dominic Raab over bullying allegations.
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“The government’s number one job is to keep people safe, and this is another tool in the toolkit for emergency situations, such as flooding or wildfires, and where there is a genuine risk to life. So, it really is the sound that could save your life,” he said.
“Keep Calm and Carry On” is a historic phrase issued by Britain’s Ministry of Defence during World War II and has been associated as a quintessentially British saying ever since. It has now been used officially once again as part of the awareness campaign around the new text-based alert system being trialled as an additional safety tool.
The alert is accompanied by a siren-like sound similar to a loud ringtone setting on a mobile phone, with the message reading: “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 gov.uk/alerts for more information. This is a test. You do not need to take any action.”
The UK government said that best practices of Emergency Alerts in other countries have shown that they work more when there is a real emergency if people have previously received a test, so they know what an alert looks and sounds like.
The Cabinet Office said Emergency Alerts have already been used successfully in several countries, including the US, Canada and Japan, where the system has been widely credited with saving lives, for example, during severe weather events.
The government said it has worked with the emergency services and partners, including the Football Association and London Marathon, to ensure the UK-wide test has minimum impact on major sporting events taking place on Sunday.
“Whilst today’s 10-second national test may be inconvenient for some, please forgive the intrusion because the next time you hear the alert, your life and the lifesaving actions of our emergency services could depend on it,” said Alex Woodman, Chief Fire Officer for Hertfordshire and Resilience Lead on the National Fire Chiefs Council.
“We must use every tool at our disposal to keep people safe, and we need everyone to play their part. The new Emergency Alerts system is one way we can do this,” Woodman added.
The system is expected to be used rarely – only being sent where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives, which means no one could receive an alert for months or years, if at all.
“During times of crises, it’s vital to warn and inform the public at speed. We look forward to further developing the use of the Emergency Alerts capability and the way it can protect and preserve life, as well as supporting policing’s wider response to critical incidents with partner agencies. Alongside partners, we will continue to listen carefully to public feedback and ensure the use of Emergency Alerts has a positive impact,” said Assistant Chief Constable Owen Weatherill, National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Civil Contingencies.
Emergency Alerts is designed to transform the UK’s warning and informing capability, working with mobile broadcasting technology to provide a means to get urgent messages quickly to nearly 90 per cent of mobile phones in a defined area when there is a risk to life and provide clear instructions about how best to respond.