PEOPLE are braced for the first nationwide test of the public Emergency Alerts system this Sunday.

The test alert, which will take place at 3pm on Sunday 23 April, will see people receive a message on the home screen of their mobile phone, along with a sound and vibration for up to ten seconds.

But while future uses of the system will warn if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby, organisation and charities who represent vulnerable groups have stressed it is important that Sunday’s test run does not have adverse effects.

Women and girls who are subject to domestic abuse and have concealed phones can opt-out of the national test either by turning off Emergency Alerts in their phone settings or by switching their phone off.

“The Government plans to send a test alert to all devices including tablets as well as phones,” said Emma Pickering, senior operations tech abuse manager at Refuge – a charity providing specialist support for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

“These alerts will come through as a loud siren even if devices are on silent, and could alert an abuser to a concealed device.

“Refuge’s Technology-Facilitated Abuse and Economic Empowerment Team have put together two videos on how to turn these alerts off, both on Android phones and on iPhones for anyone that is concerned that these alerts will put their safety at risk. 

“We want to ensure as many survivors as possible know how to ensure these alerts are turned off on their hidden devices. We have more information on securing your devices – for example your location settings or privacy settings – on”

Drivers should also be aware of the alert on Sunday, and ensure they follow the normal rules when receiving any phone call or message in a car; that they do not look or touch their phone until it is safe to do so.

A Government statement said Emergency Alerts have been used successfully in a number of countries, including the US, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, where it has been widely credited with saving lives during severe weather events. 

“In the UK, alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached by wildfires, or of severe flooding,” the statement said.

“Emergency Alerts in other countries have been shown to work more effectively in a real emergency if people have previously received a test, so they know what an alert looks and sounds like.

“The system will be used very rarely and only where there is an immediate risk to people's lives, so people may not receive an alert for months or years.”