By: Rahul Adhikari
April 25 2023
U.K.'s emergency alert system will not be used to create the sense of a 'permanent emergency.' It will only be utilized to warn about threats to life.
Millions of people in the U.K. received the first nationwide test of the government's new emergency alert system on Sunday, April 23. 4G and 5G mobile phones received text messages at 3 p.m., causing an on-screen alert and a 10-second long alarm to sound. The system is intended to warn residents of dangers such as flooding or terror attacks. Since the program's announcement, concerns about the alert system have circulated on social media.
One video claims that the emergency alert system will be used to create a sense of "permanent emergency." In the video, a man claims: "In the absence of the U.K. being prone to actual natural disasters, it seems this is more about amplifying the perception that in the future there's going to be a lot of natural disasters due to the climate crisis. Feels like these emergency alerts are more about creating a sense of permanent emergency." He further claims, "They'll turn it into those annoying Apple news notifications. There's a particular news story, narrative, or message the authorities need to convey, they now have the instant ability to reach almost the entire population with the push of a button." The video has received over 60,000 views and 2,900 likes.
The U.K. government created the emergency alert system as a free service to warn people about large-scale emergencies such as floods, wildfires, or extreme weather. People living in all parts of the U.K. can receive the alert. According to the Government of U.K., the system will not be used to spam people but only warn about an immediate threat to life. In a real emergency, the message may include telephone numbers or website links containing further information.
The claim that the U.K. is not prone to natural disasters is misleading. Over the last few years, the country has experienced natural disasters such as the 2018 wildfires caused by extreme heat during summer. Further, persistent heavy rain between November 2019 and February 2020 caused severe winter flooding across the region. A study by a group of U.K. charities found that there were over 5,600 flood warnings in England in 2019, more than in any of the last 15 years except 2012. In July 2021, the London Fire Brigade received more than 1,000 calls relating to flooding, and Thames Water reported receiving more than 2,500 calls due to the sewers flooding. In 2022, the country was affected by storm Eunice, which resulted in four deaths, widespread destruction, and over £360 million in damage.
The narrator in the video also claims that the government will use the alert system to send news stories, narratives, or messages. However, this statement is misleading as the government has clarified that the system will be used solely to warn people about natural disasters and to raise awareness of a nearby hazard or threat. The system will only be used by the emergency services, government departments, agencies and public bodies dealing with emergencies.
The emergency alert system will only warn people of natural disasters and crises, such as floods or wildfires. It will not be employed to convey news stories or "narratives" or create a perception of a "permanent emergency." Therefore, we have marked this claim as false.