On Sunday, the United Kingdom conducted the first test of a new emergency alert service, with millions of mobile phones blasting a loud alarm and vibrating.
The countrywide system, built after comparable programmes in Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, and the United States, intends to alert the public if there is a threat to life nearby, but it has been criticized for “nanny state” interference.
The alert was supposed to go out at 3:00 p.m. (1400 GMT), but some phones sounded the alarm minutes earlier and others minutes later.
Some social media users claimed that they had not received the notification at all.
The alarm was followed by the message, “This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.”
The government and emergency services plan to use the system to notify residents to situations such as catastrophic flooding and fires.
The 10-second alarm blasted out during entertainment and sporting events, including Premier League football matches, even if phones were turned off.
The World Snooker Championship was suspended soon before the alert, and the Society of London Theatre asked its members to advise their audiences to switch off their phones.
Drivers were told not to pick up their phones during the test, and those who did not want to receive the warnings could opt out through their device settings.
“Remain Calm and Carry On.” That is the British way, and that is exactly what the country will do when the test alarm comes in at 3:00 p.m. today’, stated Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden before the test.
“The government’s primary responsibility is to keep people safe, and this is another tool in the emergency toolbox.”
However, some Conservative members have questioned the scheme, with former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg asking individuals to resist the government and “turn off the unnecessary and intrusive alert.”
“It’s back to the nanny state, warning us, telling us, mollycoddling us when they should just let people live their lives,” he added.
The ideas were described as “terrifying” by Sarah Vine, ex-wife of government politician Michael Gove, in the Daily Mail.
“On Sunday, at 3 p.m., the government plans to rattle our collective cages by invading our mobile phones — and our privacy — with its ridiculous emergency test signal.” “The thought is both terrifying and exhausting,” she wrote.
“Terrifying because it’s a reminder of the tyranny imposed on all of us by technology that has invaded our homes like Japanese knotweed, infiltrating every aspect of our daily lives,” she continued.
Dowden attempted to allay privacy and intrusion issues by claiming that “all individuals need to do is swipe away the message or click “OK.”
“The test is secure, free to receive, one-way, and does not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data,” he continued.
The alert system, according to Judy Edworthy, an international expert in alarm systems and a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth, is a desirable advance, even though its first use may surprise individuals.
“I expect some people will be surprised, despite the message explaining it is a test,” she told the British Press Association.
MPs also condemned the choice to award the lucrative IT contract for the alert system to Fujitsu, the Japanese company known for malfunctioning software in the Post Office system that resulted in innocent sub-postmasters being convicted of fraud.