5 million cellphones receive emergency test alert from Civil Defense

Most people are familiar with emergency alerts, but for others it can come as a really big surprise. Picture/file

Did your phone ring?

More than five million mobile phones received an emergency alert test around 6:16 p.m. on Sunday.

Civil Defense Director of Emergency Management Gary Knowles said an emergency mobile alert is a vital information channel for alerting people to threats to their life, health or property.

“The national test is a way to check our systems, cell towers and your phone’s ability to receive an emergency mobile alert, so we’re confident it will perform as it should in an emergency.”

Mobile emergency alert sent at 6:16 p.m.  Photo / Provided
Mobile emergency alert sent at 6:16 p.m. Photo / Provided

Knowles said when emergencies do occur, Emergency Mobile Alert is a critical channel to help keep our communities safe.

“Our results from the 2021 Disaster Preparedness Survey indicated that 90% of New Zealanders had received an EMA themselves or were close to someone who had one in the last year.”

“Emergency Mobile Alert is an additional channel to help keep Aotearoa safe in the event of an emergency and does not replace other means of staying informed or natural warnings.

“No form of technology is completely foolproof, so it does not replace other warning channels such as radio or social media, or the need to act on natural warning signs. If you feel that your life is in danger, do not wait for an official warning.Remember – if an earthquake is long or strong, leave.

A 2021 disaster preparedness survey found that 90% of New Zealanders had received an alert or were near someone who had in the past year. Knowles expected a similar proportion to receive an alert on their phones during tonight’s test.

Nema is the “gatekeeper” to the system, responsible for monitoring its use and effectiveness, managing improvements, coordinating meetings, and reporting to an oversight governance committee.

Who presses the send button?

The following government agencies are the only ones authorized to send alerts:

• New Zealand Police

• Fire and emergency

• Ministry of Health

• Ministry of Primary Industries

• Not my

• The 16 local civil protection emergency management groups, responsible for emergency management in their areas, are also authorized to send alerts.

What circumstances trigger an alert?

In addition to scheduled test alerts, agencies will only press Send when there is a serious threat to your life, health, and property.

Natural disasters are the first that come to mind – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, forest fires and floods – but terrorist attacks, armed criminals on the loose, severely contaminated drinking water or epidemics of a deadly virus can count.

The protocol states that the agencies will only issue “high priority alerts”. Certain criteria, such as the degree of certainty and severity of the emergency and the urgency of the response, help to guide this decision, in particular when the information available is incomplete or there is doubt about the situation.

Other considerations include whether the audience expects an alert or if they feel “over-alert”. And sometimes an alert may be issued when it is not considered a high priority, including when it is important to keep lines of communication open with affected areas.

– Additional report The Spinoff

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