UK Gov Enlists Operators for Mobile Public Alert Testing

The Government is testing an emergency alert service, for things like pandemics and extreme weather, using mobile messaging in Glasgow, Suffolk and Yorkshire.

Working with O2, Vodafone and EE, the Government will send up to 50,000 messages via SMS and cell broadcasts in rural and urban areas to see how well the different tech works and gauge the publics response. The messages will make clear that it is only a test.

The solutions being tested either use databases held by the operators to identify people who live in the area so they can be alerted via SMS, or use a cell broadcast sent to everyone in a given area.

The latter uses a different channel to calls and SMS, so would avoid congestion and does not require peoples phone numbers, but to receive cell broadcasts, a setting needs to be activated on the handset. Security concerns have been raised that if standard text messages are used, as they could be liable to impersonation. Systems like these are being implemented across the world for similar public emergencies.

There will be follow-up research with people who receive the messages – advertised locally in Easingwold in North Yorkshire, Glasgow city centre and around Leiston in Suffolk. 

Alternatively people can email: public.alert@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.

Its a wonder then get any work done with email addresses like that.