Government Emergency Alerts and the Effect on Domestic Abuse Survivors

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The Government is introducing an Emergency Alert System in the UK which is due to come into effect on the 23rd April 2023.

What is an Emergency Alert?

An emergency alert is a service that will warn you, via your mobile phone or another smart device, if there is a danger to life nearby and will give you instructions as to what you should do. An emergency alert will make a loud siren-like noise on your mobile device even if it has been set to silent. It will also vibrate and read out the alert. An example of what the emergency alert will look and sound like can be viewed here:

Example of an emergency alert, announcing a national test on the 23rd of April – YouTube

Alerts can be sent by the emergency services and government departments, agencies and public bodies which deal with emergencies. Examples of alerts that you could receive include:

  • Severe flooding;
  • Fires; and
  • Extreme weather.

How will emergency alerts affect those suffering from domestic abuse?

Some ongoing survivors of domestic abuse who are still in an abusive relationship may have a second phone which their partner does not know about. The function of this phone is for use in case of emergencies and/or communicate with friends, and family, and/or without their partner seeing/controlling the communication. Some domestic abuse perpetrators may also “confiscate” their partner’s phone and this second phone means they have a method of communication if this is to happen.

Emergency Alerts pose a risk to ongoing survivors as their partner could hear the alert and discover where they keep their second phone.

What should an ongoing survivor of domestic abuse do in this situation?

You can opt out of the emergency alerts by going into your mobile phone settings and switching off “severe alerts” and “extreme alerts”.  The Charity Refuge has put together a helpful guide for Android and Apple users that shows how to opt out of the alerts:

Another option would be for ongoing survivors to use a mobile phone which is not a smartphone for their second phone as this is not compatible with the emergency alert service. The government also advises that alerts will not be received if:

  • The phone is turned off or in airplane mode;
  • Connected to a 2G or 3G network as the system needs 4G to operate;
  • Wifi only; or
  • Not compatible.

WSP Solicitors can provide advice to individuals who are still in an abusive relationship or have left a relationship but still need advice and/or protection from an ex-partner. Please reach out to our expert Family Law Solicitors via 01453 847200 or by using the form found here.


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