"Keep calm and carry on" is the advice being given ahead of a nationwide alert system test, that will blare from mobile phones this afternoon.
But victims of domestic abuse are being advised to take steps to ensure that any hidden phone they have for emergency use remains hidden. Many victims have a phone hidden away for emergency use. It’s feared the location of those phones could be accidently given away to abusers when the UK tests its new national emergency alert at 3.00 pm on Sunday (23 April).
The emergency alerts will be used to warn people of imminent danger caused by severe weather, fire or terrorism events. When activated – as it will be during Sunday’s test, all devices connected to a 4G or 5G network will vibrate and sound an alarm for 10 seconds – even if the phone is on silent mode.
Gavin Drake is director of the Jill Saward Organisation which works on behalf of victims of domestic and gender-based violence. He’s been speaking to Premier about what people with emergency phones should do :
“The pitfall with this emergency alert system is that even if mobile phones are on silent, if they’re within reach of a transmitter they will receive the alert and because it’s an emergency alert it doesn’t respect a silent setting. It means that if the abuser is in the house at the time, they’ll be able to hear there is another phone that they may not be aware of.
“The new emergency test system is a valuable new tool for public safety but it does come with its own risks. Fortunately, there are two easy ways to prevent the alerts going off – but both require action in advance.
“The first method is to turn off emergency alerts and severe alerts in the phone’s settings. iPhone users can do this by going to ‘Settings’ and then ‘Notification’. Scrolling to the bottom of that screen will allow users to switch these off. Android users should go to ‘Settings’ and then search for Emergency Alerts.
“The second method is to keep the phone in Airplane mode – this prevents connection to mobile networks and will stop the emergency alert reaching the phone.”
Gavin Drake added: “It is imperative that people who keep secret phones for emergency use keep these settings on even after Sunday’s test. As a national test, we have been told about Sunday’s alert and we can prepare. The next alert will likely come with no notice – as by their very nature they are sent in extreme emergencies which are not pre-planned.”
The alert system is part of plans to warn people about nearby dangers, such as floods, wildfires or terrorism threats.
Similar systems are already being used in the Netherlands, US and Canada.
For more information go to thejso.uk.