BBC News

Tests in Glasgow of emergency text messages response

By Reevel Alderson
Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

image captionText messages could warn of emergency

Glasgow has been selected as one of the three places where the UK government will carry out tests to ensure the public can receive mobile phone alerts in the event of an emergency.

Text messages will be sent out to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology.

The government said the importance of warning and informing the public of an emergency was key to any response.

But it was stressed the tests were not linked to any specific threat.

The experiment will be carried out in Glasgow city centre, and will involve customers of the O2 network who will receive a text message linking them to a website where their views can be collated.

Similar trials will take place in rural areas in Easingwold, North Yorkshire and Leiston in Suffolk, with the aim of discovering the best way of informing people of a threat.

The days the tests are to be carried out will be announced later, but in all around 50,000 mobile phone users on three networks - O2, Vodafone and EE - will sent messages which will make it clear it is part of the government trial.

'Reduce casualties'

The experiment was ordered as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review published in 2011, which included a National Risk Register on how emergencies are assessed and categorised.

The government said disseminating information could be vital in reducing the number and extent of casualties in the event of natural disasters, man-made accidents or attacks by a foreign power, terrorists or organised criminals.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said he hoped the information would help in the development of systems which would be used by emergency responders.

"I want to reassure the public that these tests are not linked to any threat or specific hazard in their area," he said.

"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."

The government stressed phone users' personal data would not be required.

Mobile phone locations are tracked by the database owned by the mobile network operator.

This will allow all handsets to be messaged if the person carrying it is in an area impacted by an emergency.