UK emergency alert: Everything you need to know including what it is, why it’s being done & how to disable it

Millions of people across the UK are set to receive an emergency alert on their phones this weekend - but what is it, why is it happening and can it be disabled?
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The UK emergency alert is set to take place at 3pm on Sunday, April 23. Millions of mobile phones in the UK will receive the alert, which will last around 10 seconds.

When the clock reaches 3pm, there will be a message accompanied by a loud siren-like sound or vibration. The government says the new system is a "vital tool to keep the public safe in life-threatening emergencies".

Below is everything you need to know about the emergency alert, including what the message will say, which devices will receive the alert and can it be disabled.

What will the emergency alert message say?

The message alert which will appear on phones will say: "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."

After swiping away the message or clicking ‘OK’ you will be able to continue using your phone as normal.

Which devices will receive the UK emergency alert? 

The alerts will work on all 4G and 5G phone networks and on iPhone devices running iOS 14.5 or later as well as phones and tablets running Android 11 or later.

Older "non-smart" phones will be unable to receive the alerts, and nor will devices that are turned off or on aeroplane mode. The alert will sound on phones even if they are on silent mode.

Can the emergency alert be disabled? 

Despite the government strongly recommending enabling devices to receive alerts, it is possible to disable it. This can be done by searching in settings for "emergency alerts" and turning off "severe alerts" and "extreme alerts".

When will emergency alerts be used in the future?

In the future, the emergency alerts may be used locally or nationally by the government or emergency services to send advice on how to stay safe or possibly when there is a danger to life. They will also focus on weather events such as severe flooding, fires and extreme weather.

Will it access my data? 

The Cabinet Office say personal data about a user’s device or location will not be collected or shared. The government or emergency services do not need to know the mobile-phone number or any other personal data.

What should I do if I’m driving when the alert goes off?

Drivers are advised not to look at or touch their phone until it is safe, just as when receiving any call or message.