UK government announces national alerting solution

The UK is implementing a public emergency alerting system, with ‘public warning cell broadcast’ technology provided by Everbridge. According to the company, system functionality will be nationally tested on April 23.

Discussing the roll-out, a spokesperson for Everbridge said: “This is the UK government’s first-ever nationwide emergency alerting system.

“It allows people to be reached quicky during national emergencies, such as public health crises, terror attacks, industrial incidents, earthquakes and flooding. The system will target mobile phones of residents and visitors present in the area impacted by an emergency.”

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP, said: “[The system] will revolutionise [the UK’s] ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger and help us keep people safe. As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”

Everbridge 'Public Warning' leverages existing telecom infrastructure, with no opt-in required on the part of the message-receiver. According to the company, the platform is “fully compliant with data privacy regulations including GDPR, and allows public safety agencies to send an alert to any device within a few seconds without sharing any personal details, such as names or phone numbers.”

The government said there had already been successful trials of the UK system in East Suffolk and Reading. Mobile phone users will receive an emergency alert on the home screen of their device, coupled with a vibration and a loud siren-like series of beeps.

The UK system works on 4G and 5G phone networks and it is estimated the alerts will reach about 90% of mobile phones in a given area, with users needing to acknowledge the alert before they can use other features on their device. The siren-like sounds are expected to occur even if the phone is on silent mode; however, alerts will not be received if a device is turned off or in flight mode.

The government said the emergency alerts would be used very rarely and be sent only where there was an immediate risk to life – so people may not receive an alert for months, or even years. Other countries which have a adopted a similar national public alerting strategy include Norway, Sweden, Iceland, the Netherlands, Estonia, Australia, New Zealand and Mauritius.

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