A UK-wide emergency alert service is being launched today, ahead of testing on Sunday 23 April.

The government said alerts would be sent directly to mobile phones across the UK to warn people of life-threatening events such as bushfires and severe flooding.

They will only come from the government or emergency services and will include details of the affected area along with instructions on how to respond.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden said: “We are strengthening our national resilience with a new system of emergency alerts, to deal with a wide range of threats – from floods to bushfires.

“It will revolutionize our ability to warn and inform people who are in imminent danger, and help us keep people safe.

“As we’ve seen in the United States and elsewhere, ringing the phone can save lives.”

Alerts have been successfully tested in East Suffolk and Reading, and alerts will only be sent when there is an immediate danger to life, so it could be weeks, months or even years in between.

The government said the alerts would be safe and free to receive and would not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data.

It is already possible to sign up for flood warnings sent directly to your mobile phone from the Environment Agency in England, and the equivalents in Scotland and Wales.

What will the alarm sound like?

The alert will appear on your device and you will hear a loud siren-like sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.

You will have to acknowledge the alert before you can use the other features of your phone.

The alert will appear as a notification and may include phone numbers or links to websites with more information.

You can see what it looks and sounds like at www.gov.uk/alerts

If you do not wish to receive alerts, you can opt out in your device settings.

The chair of the National Council of Fire Chiefs, Mark Hardingham, said: “We’ve seen this type of system in place elsewhere around the world, and we look forward to having the facility here in the UK.

“Working with the fire services and partners, we want this system to help us help you be as safe as possible in the event of a crisis.”

“Being able to communicate warnings in a timely and accurate manner during incidents is really important to help people take action to protect themselves, their families and their neighbours,” said Caroline Douglas, Executive Director of Flood Risk Management and Coastal Erosion at the Environment Agency.

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