The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) is leading the implementation of a new nationwide channel for sending alerts about emergencies to mobile phones, called cell broadcast alerting.
Cell broadcast alerting is on track to be up and running by late 2017.
Details about exactly when it will be available and what people will need to do to make sure they can receive the alerts will be provided later this year.
Cell broadcast alerting is a new way of sending information about emergencies to mobile phones in a set area without people needing to download an app or subscribe to a service.
The alerts appear similar to text messages. They are received automatically and for free by all cell broadcast enabled mobile phones in the area.
It will take time to enable cell broadcasting across the wide range of makes, models and ages of phones used in New Zealand.
Some makes and models will not be able to receive the alerts if their software cannot be updated or they don’t have the technology needed. A list of which handsets able to receive the alerts will be available before the launch.
Cell broadcast alerting will be used anywhere in New Zealand when life, well-being or property are in imminent, serious danger. It is not just for tsunami warnings. It will also be used in emergencies such as major public health issues or local police incidents. The alerts will be sent by authorised government agencies.
The alerts will be one new channel added to the range of emergency communications channels already used. It will complement, not replace, existing channels.
No technology is 100% failsafe or equally suited to all conditions and emergencies, so multiple channels are used to send warnings and alerts in New Zealand. These channels include radio, television, websites, various social media, smartphone apps, sirens and others.
Cell broadcast alerting will not replace the need to take action if you notice natural warning signs. For example, for earthquake or tsunami, if you’re near the coast and you feel a long rolling earthquake that lasts for more than a minute or one that makes it hard to stand up, don’t wait for a cell broadcast alert or any other official alert, move immediately as far inland as you can or to the nearest high ground.
A range of alerting methods was assessed before cell broadcast was chosen. Every system has pros and cons, cell broadcast alerting gives the best combination of reach and reliability.
Cell broadcast alerting:
MCDEM is leading the implementation on behalf of a number of agencies, including the New Zealand Fire Service, New Zealand Police, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) Groups.
Work on a national mobile based public alerting system began in 2014. Since then it has developed to make the most of available technology. The decision to use cell broadcast alerting was made in 2016.
Work so far includes:
Details about exactly when cell broadcast alerting will be available and what people will need to do to make sure they can receive the alerts will be available later in 2017.