A system sending messages to mobile phone users in areas at risk of natural disasters or terrorist attacks will be tested in the UK

Natural disaster alert system to be tested in the UK

A pilot project will test a mobile phone alert system informing residents about major emergencies.

Running at the same time in Suffolk, Yorkshire and Glasgow, the pilot project will include more than 50,000 mobile phone users, informing them about potential natural disasters, terrorist threats or large-scale accidents.

The system, a joint venture of the UK government O2, Vodafone and EE, relies on cell broadcasting – a technology enabling sending short text messages to multiple users in a specified area without knowing their specific phone numbers. The project combines two techniques - targeting all handsets within reach of selected base transceiver stations and tracking down users at risk via phone-location tools of mobile network operators.

Taking place over the next months, the project covering Easingwold in North Yorkshire, Glasgow city centre and Leiston in Suffolk will assess how well the technology works and how the public reacts to it.

"The Government and three mobile phone companies - O2, Vodafone and EE, will conduct separate tests later this year to look at a how different technologies work and how the public react when they receive an emergency alert to their phone, “ said Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude.

"I want to reassure the public that these tests are not linked to any threat or specific hazard in their area. We have included diverse areas - both rural and urban - as part of our tests, as we want to look at how effective the different systems are in different areas in using mobile phones to deliver mass messaging,” he said.

The project’s coordinators plan to consult the public about the alert system and its operation via online surveys and a series of focus groups.

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