National Public Warning System tested prior to UK roll-out
The Government is to introduce a new Emergency Alerts service across the UK later this summer as part of work to improve the UK's resilience in the event of emergencies.
The solution by Everbridge has been deployed by mobile network operators EE, O2, and Three as part of successful testing of the UK government’s nationwide emergency system, planned for national roll-out later this year.
Emergency Alerts would inform people of serious emergencies, either nationally or in their local area, which could affect them by broadcasting information directly to their mobile phones.
Emergency Alerts would only be used to warn and inform the public in emergency situations when lives are at risk. It is anticipated that this could include public health emergencies, severe floods, fires, industrial incidents and terror attacks.
Messages will always include details of the impacted area, situation, actions for people to take and a link to further information not transmittable in the alert message such as maps and images. This capability is already used around the world in countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Canada, and has been shown to help save lives.
"The Emergency Alerts service will be a vital tool in helping us to better respond to emergencies, both nationally and locally," said Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt. "The concept was used to good effect during the pandemic when we asked people, via text message, to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This new system builds on that capability and will allow us to more quickly and effectively get life-saving messages to people across the UK."
The system has already been used to complete two recent UK trials, the first in East Suffolk, the second in Reading. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the emergency alert system was deployed in under 100 days.
"The UK Government presented a challenge to deploy Cell Broadcast technology in a short timeframe in response to the coronavirus outbreak," said Nazirali Rajvani, Director of Architecture, Solutions & Analysis at British Telecommunications. "We partnered with Everbridge to provide a trusted and proven world-class solution which was already in use in several other countries."
The Everbridge system uses existing telecom infrastructure, with no opt-in required, to reach everyone within a geographic area to reduce disaster risk, support first responder communications, and analyse disaster communication effectiveness for subsequent mitigation activities. 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.
Public testing will allow the Government to check the effectiveness of the system and ensure that members of the public are familiar with the new system and know what to do should they receive an alert in future. There will be localised public information campaigns ahead of each test to inform people about the look and feel of the alert and what they should do when they receive it. There will also be a nationwide public information campaign ahead of the full national launch of this new capability.