UK Government to test Emergency Alert during London Marathon

UK Government to test Emergency Alert during London Marathon

The UK Government has launched a new emergency alert system, which will be tested for the first time on Sunday 23 April at 3pm.

What is the UK Government Emergency Alert?

Emergency Alerts is a new service by the UK Government created to warn the general public about danger to life nearby.

In an emergency, all compatible phones and tablets will sound an alert. The alert will contain information on the danger, with advice on how to stay safe.

Examples of reasons why an alert might be sent include:

  • severe flooding
  • fires
  • extreme weather

What happens when you get an Emergency Alert?

When the UK Government sends out an Emergency Alert, your phone will:

  • make a loud siren-like sound
  • vibrate
  • read out the alert

The sound and vibration will last for about 10 seconds.

The alert will sound even if your phone is on silent, and could possibly even sound if the phone is switched off.

The only way to opt-out of Emergency Alerts is to turn them off in your phone’s settings.

How will the Emergency Alert test affect the London Marathon?

As this service is new, the UK Government will be testing the Emergency Alert system nationwide on Sunday 23 April at 3pm.

Every compatible device in the country will receive a loud alert, unless you have already turned it off in your phone’s notifications settings.

The London Marathon mass start will begin at 10am the same day. This means that any runners still out on the course at 3pm will be interrupted by the alert.

It also means that the tens of thousands of spectators, and the runners who have already finished, will receive the alert while in the vicinity of the race.

UK Government Emergency Alert test: a potential risk

In May 2022, media in the USA reported on a lawsuit being brought by parents of a boy affected by a similar alert system.

In the USA, an Amber Alert is an alert on all devices when a child is reported missing in the area.

It works the same as the UK’s new Emergency Alert system in that it causes a loud siren-like sound, regardless of the volume set on your phone.

In this case, the boy suffered permanent hearing loss. He had been wearing Apple AirPods (earphones) and the alert was played at a dangerous volume into his ears.

If you are running the London Marathon and plan to wear earphones while running, it’s important to be aware that the Emergency Alert test is happening at 3pm and to act accordingly.

In the UK, domestic violence charities have already warned of the risks associated with the Emergency Alert system.

Emma Pickering is the senior operations tech abuse manager at domestic violence charity, Refuge. She spoke to Cosmopolitan UK.

“Refuge has shared our concerns with the government about their soon to be tested emergency alert system. Our concerns are centered 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.”

How to opt-out of the Emergency Alert

If you have an iPhone, go to your phone’s settings, then go to Notifications.

Scroll all the way to the bottom, where there is a designated section for the Emergency Alerts.

Here, you will be able to choose to turn off Extreme Alerts and/or Severe Alerts.

If you have an Android, the easiest way to turn off the alerts is to search your settings for ’emergency alerts’ and turn them off from there.

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