Received an ‘Emergency Alert’? Here's what the notification means - Hindustan Times

Received an ‘Emergency Alert’? Here's what the notification means

Oct 10, 2023 04:29 PM IST

The ‘Cell Broadcast Alert System’ aims to provide real-time disaster alerts to citizens for scenarios like tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, and more.

Several Android and iOS users once again received an “Emergency Alert” sent by the department of telecommunication (DoT) of the Indian government, as part of their efforts to enhance emergency communication during disasters. This initiative was launched by the government in July, and a similar test broadcast was conducted just last month on September 15.

The message, initially labelled as “Emergency alert: Extreme”, was delivered in both English and Hindi on Tuesday.(Screen grab of the alert)
The message, initially labelled as “Emergency alert: Extreme”, was delivered in both English and Hindi on Tuesday.(Screen grab of the alert)

The message, initially labelled as “Emergency alert: Extreme”, was delivered in both English and Hindi. It conveyed the following: “This is a SAMPLE TESTING MESSAGE sent through Cell Broadcasting System by Department of Telecommunication, Government of India. Please ignore this message as no action is required from your end. This message has been sent to test Pan-India Emergency Alert System being implemented by National Disaster Management Authority. It aims to enhance public safety and provide timely alerts during emergencies.”

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The message also included a timestamp indicating when it was received and was sent to a variety of devices, including smartwatches. In the case of the Apple Watch Ultra, a text message was accompanied by a strong audible alert and vibration. While some users received the alert with a loud sound and vibration, individuals who had set their phones to silent did not receive the message with an audible sound or vibration. Nevertheless, the system has been designed to override the silent mode on smartphones to ensure that the user is alerted.

Why the messages?

The department of telecommunications (DoT), in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), has announced the implementation of the “Cell Broadcast Alert System”. This system aims to deliver real-time alerts to citizens during disaster scenarios such as tsunamis, flash floods, earthquakes, landslides, and more. The government initiated this effort to enhance public safety in emergency situations.

A government statement released by the ministry of communications in July this year said, “In our continuous commitment to the safety of citizens of India and the communities, tests of Cell Broadcast Alert System are being conducted on each Telecom Service Provider. These tests will be performed from time to time in various regions across country to gauge the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency alert broadcasting capabilities of the systems in place, of various Mobile Operators and Cell Broadcast System.”

About the alert system

According to the ministry's statement, the Cell Broadcast Alert System is a cutting-edge technology enabling the transmission of urgent and time-sensitive disaster management messages to all mobile devices within a specified geographical area, regardless of whether the recipients are residents or visitors.

This system guarantees the widespread and timely dissemination of crucial emergency information. Government agencies and emergency services utilise it to apprise the public of potential threats and to keep them informed during critical situations. Cell Broadcast is frequently employed for the delivery of emergency alerts, including severe weather warnings, public safety messages, evacuation instructions, and other vital updates, the statement further said.

Throughout the testing phase, individuals will receive simulated emergency alerts on their mobile devices. The ministry has previously assured that these test alerts “do not indicate an actual emergency” and will be clearly labelled as a “SAMPLE TESTING MESSAGE” to prevent any confusion.

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