Nationwide Test Of Emergency Mobile Alert Tonight (Sunday)

Nov 24, 2019
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Nationwide test expected to show increased penetration of Emergency Mobile Alert

This evening (Sunday), about four million phones will make a loud noise marking the annual nationwide test of the Emergency Mobile Alert system.

The system, which is administered by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) on behalf of a range of agencies, is undergoing a nationwide live test this Sunday 24 November between 6pm and 7pm. Last year six in ten New Zealanders received the alert, and that number is expected to climb further.

Those people whose mobile phones are capable of receiving the alerts can expect to hear a loud, penetrating sound, and a notification will display. The test alert will link to the Civil Defence website, where people can fill out a brief survey about how they experienced the alert. This will inform future improvements to the system and gather feedback for mobile phone providers.

“Fast and reliable information is crucial when emergencies strike. Emergency Mobile Alert is a vital information channel for alerting people to threats to their life, health or property,” says MCDEM Director Sarah Stuart-Black.

Ms Stuart-Black says the nationwide test is a way to test our systems, the cell towers and your phone’s ability to receive an Emergency Mobile Alert.

“Some people will be a little more used to the system, as this is now our third nationwide test, and the system has also been used a number of times for local emergencies, such as the Auckland Convention Centre fire. For others, it will be the first time they’ve experienced it.”

Ms Stuart-Black says Emergency Mobile Alert uses cell broadcast technology, which is also used in a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Chile and the Netherlands. There’s no need to subscribe or download an app – all you need is a mobile phone that is capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts, and a network signal.

“It uses internationally proven technology that isn’t susceptible to overloading, which is vital when we need to rapidly alert a large number of people.”

“However, no form of technology is completely failsafe, so it doesn’t replace other alerting channels such as radio or social media, or the need to act upon natural warning signs. Remember – if an earthquake is long or strong, get gone.”

Ms Stuart-Black says more people than ever before can receive the alerts because an increasing number of people now have Emergency Mobile Alert compatible phones.

However, not everyone will receive Emergency Mobile Alerts. If you’re in a mobile coverage zone and don’t receive an alert, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your phone or the system. It may be because your phone isn’t compatible or doesn’t have the latest updates. For phones bought overseas or parallel imported, your alert may display differently – for example, some may show up as “Presidential Alert”. In local emergencies, only those in the geographically targeted area will receive it.

You can find out more about Emergency Mobile Alert and check whether your phone is capable of receiving alerts here. If you feel your life is in danger, don’t wait for an official warning.

Ms Stuart-Black says 2Degrees, Spark, and Vodafone have all actively supported the Emergency Mobile Alert system, which was launched with the first nationwide test alert in November 2017

What you need to know:

  • No need to subscribe. There is no need to sign up or download an app. If your phone is on and capable of receiving them, you should get the alerts. You can find out whether your phone can receive the alerts at www.civildefence.govt.nz and ensure your phone is on the most up to date operating system.
  • Works by geo-targeting. Emergency Mobile Alerts can also be targeted to affected areas, so you will only get them if the emergency is in your area. Sunday’s test alert will be sent to all areas in New Zealand with mobile coverage.
  • You can’t opt out. As Emergency Mobile Alert is about keeping you safe, you won’t be able to opt-out. Your phones may show optional settings used in other countries, but in New Zealand we will use a special broadcast channel that is permanently on.
  • Who can send an alert? Emergency Mobile Alert messages can only be sent by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups, NZ Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
  • Don’t ditch the radio. Emergency Mobile Alert is an additional channel to help keep New Zealand safe in an emergency and does not replace other alerting channels such as radio, television, websites and social media, or the need to take action after natural warnings. If you feel your life may be in danger, don’t wait for an official warning. Take immediate action. Remember – Long or strong, get gone.
  • What if I’m driving? If you are driving when you receive an alert, wait until it is safe to stop and then check the message.
  • Make a plan. Take the time to make your own emergency plan which includes what to do, where to go, who can help you and who might need your help. You can make a plan online at www.happens.nz.

Find out more about Emergency Mobile Alerts here

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