When will my phone sound the alarm? Everything you need to know about today's emergency alert test

23 April 2023, 07:03 | Updated: 23 April 2023, 15:17

A warning message will pop up on mobile phones across the country
A warning message will pop up on mobile phones across the country. Picture: Government
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

An emergency alert will be sent to nearly every smartphone in the UK at 3pm today.

A siren will go off and phones will vibrate for around 10 seconds in the first test of the UK's new emergency alert system.

Once up and running, the emergency alert system will be used to warn citizens of extreme weather events, including floods, wildfires and terror attacks.

The government has been planning the date and time of the alert carefully to avoid a clash with significant events.

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It had been planned for early evening on April 23, but it was moved to avoid clashing with the FA Cup semi-final, which kicks off at 4.30pm.

The government was also conscious to avoid clashing with the London Marathon, which starts at 9.30am on Sunday.

So why are we getting a new emergency alert system in the UK? And what will it actually sound like? Here are the latest details.

How it works

The date has been confirmed for April 23
The date has been confirmed for April 23. Picture: Government

Oliver Dowden, who is in charge of the system's launch, said the alert will only be sent to phones when there is an immediate threat to life.

It is also expected to be targeted to locals in immediate danger, rather than the entire country.

The alert will not sound if your phone is off, but it will come through even if it is on silent.

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Mark Hardingham, chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: "For 10 seconds, the national test may be inconvenient for some, but please forgive us for the intrusion.

"The next time you hear it - your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it."

Can you turn the emergency alert off?

Yes - although the government has urged people to keep the alert system on.

They have promised alerts will only be sent if there's an "immediate risk to life" and they will not be using it as "spam system".

The government as also said the system won't be able to track you or take any data from you.To turn the emergency alert off, go into your phone's settings where you'll be able to turn the alarm off.

Similar systems are already in parts of the United States, Canada and Japan.

There are some concerns the alert's ability to pierce through silent mode could put survivors of domestic abuse with second phones at risk.

Emma Pickering, senior operations tech abuse manager at Refuge, said: "Our concerns are centred on the very real risk to survivors of domestic abuse who may have secret or secondary phones hidden within the home, which they must ensure are not discovered by their perpetrators.

"These devices can be a lifeline for women who need to access support or flee their abuser."

"These alerts will come through as a loud siren even if devices are on silent and could alert an abuser to a concealed device," she added.