Community Interest Company, NCDV National Centre for Domestic Violence), has added its voice to growing public concerns over plans to test the new national emergency alert system during the evening of Sunday, 23rd April 2023.
At some point during the evening, around 90% of all the mobile phones in the United Kingdom will go off, emitting a loud siren noise for 10 seconds, even if devices are switched to silent mode. (Emergency alerts will not be sent to phones that only use 3G or 2G. This means anyone with an older phone, or perhaps not a smartphone, will not receive the alert, but the government estimates that 90% of the population will receive it.)
The issue that troubles many women’s groups and domestic abuse and violence organisations is over many domestic abuse victims and survivors’ use of secret emergency mobiles.
Sharon Bryan, head of Partnerships and Development at NCDV, says: “Hidden second mobiles are an emergency lifeline for victims and survivors living under the constant threat of abuse, or worse. This siren test may unexpectedly reveal their presence to abusers – with disastrous consequences.”
Long planned, the government’s emergency alert system is being implemented to keep the public safe in times of crisis. It is designed to relay important information to individuals in affected areas.
When a crisis occurs, such as a natural disaster or a security threat, authorized personnel can quickly alert individuals in the affected area. These alerts may include information on the nature of the threat, instructions on how to stay safe and other details.
On Sunday, 23rd April, after the siren has sounded, all mobile phone users will receive the following notification:
- This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you about a life-threatening emergency nearby.
- In an actual 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.
Recipients must acknowledge that they have seen the alert before they can use their phones normally again. Importantly, users can opt out of receiving the emergency alerts, but the government strongly urges them not to because the alerts are potentially lifesaving.
Sharon Bryan says: “Many people will know nothing about the planned emergency alert system. But those victims/survivors of domestic abuse may be shocked and terrified to hear their ‘secret’ phone suddenly going off. For some, this may lead to further abuse and violence.”
“We are trying to reach as many victims/survivors with second phones as possible to alert them to the risk of their phones being revealed by the test – and to urge them to turn off the alerts on their secret second phones before Sunday 23rd April.”
“If people are unsure whether an alert will sound on an older mobile, we say they should switch it off until the following day if they feel safe.”