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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Probe into why some mobile phones failed national emergency alert test

NewsProbe into why some mobile phones failed national emergency alert test

A review into why some mobile phones did not receive the Sunday afternoon national emergency alert test is underway.

The Cabinet Office said the “vast majority of compatible phones” received the alert as part of what was said to be the biggest public communications exercise carried out in the UK.

But the Government department said it was aware that the 10-second alarm and message notification was not delivered to some mobile phones. Customers on the Three mobile phone network were among those to report not receiving the communication test.

The network provider said it would be working with the Government to understand what had happened.

READ MORE: Thousands on one mobile network ‘did not get emergency test alert’

A small number of people also took to social media to flag that they were unable to make or receive calls following the 3pm alarm. The Cabinet Office said that engineers had not spotted a trend of phone functions failing to work, but said officials were in the early stages of analysing results.

Once established, the emergency alert system is designed to warn the public if there is a danger to life nearby. In future, a similarly loud notification and message will be sent to those the Government is seeking to reach.

The system is intended to be used in life-threatening situations including flooding and wildfires.

A Government spokesman said: “We have effectively completed the test of the UK-wide Emergency Alerts system, the biggest public communications exercise of its kind ever done. We are working with mobile network operators to review the outcome and any lessons learned.”

In a statement, a spokesman for Three said: “We are aware that a number of customers have not received the test alert. We are working closely with the Government to understand why and ensure it doesn’t happen when the system is in use.”

The loud alarm was planned to ring at 3pm on all devices that were using 4G and 5G networks in the UK.

For millions of phone users, the siren sounded for 10 seconds and displayed a message notifying users that no action was needed in response to the test. Some smartphones also read out the message aloud to recipients.

On social media, some users reported receiving the message a minute or so early, or even receiving repeat alerts. Others said their phone received the notification after they switched it back on, having been off at 3pm.

Phones that were powered down or switched to airplane mode were not expected to sound.

Speaking before the test, Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News: “It’s a bit irritating at the time but in the future people could be grateful for it because in a real emergency, this could be the sound that saves your life.”

He denied the new system was an example of nanny state interference, telling the BBC he did not accept “that characterisation”. People who do not wish to receive future alerts will be able to opt out using their device settings.

The Cabinet Office confirmed there was a spelling error in the Welsh language version of the alert text. For the translation of the English phrase “others safe”, the message reportedly read “eraill yn Vogel” when it should have said “eraill yn ddiogel”.

The entertainment and sport sectors had took steps to guard against disruption to events with the London Marathon, Premier League football matches and matinee theatre performances all taking place as the 3pm alert sounded.

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