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Emergency Mobile Alert frequently asked questions (FAQ)

We’ve compiled helpful answers to frequently asked questions about Emergency Mobile Alert.

What are Emergency Mobile Alerts?

Emergency Mobile Alerts are messages about emergencies broadcast by authorised emergency agencies to mobile phones capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts. They can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards.

How does Emergency Mobile Alert work?

Emergency Mobile Alerts are broadcast via cell towers to mobile phones with the ability to receive Emergency Mobile Alerts. Authorised emergency agencies can target the alerts to specific areas affected by serious hazards.

If your phone is on, capable and inside the targeted location, you should get the alerts. You don’t have to download an app or subscribe to a service, just ensure your phone is capable and updated.

The alert will be broadcast to areas affected by serious hazards for a set period of time. Any capable device entering this area during the broadcast period will receive the alert.

Emergency Mobile Alert capable phones should work on all mobile networks in New Zealand.

What do Emergency Mobile Alerts look like?

The look of emergency alerts will depend on the make and model of your phone. However, the alerts will have common characteristics. Emergency Mobile Alerts will tell you the situation, what to do, the time, the agency sending the alert, and if needed, where to go for more information.

The alert should appear automatically on your phone’s screen with a unique and penetrating warning sound.

Who sends Emergency Mobile Alerts?

Only certain emergency agencies are authorised to send Emergency Mobile Alerts when there is a serious threat to life, health or property. Scheduled test alerts may also be sent.

The only agencies currently authorised to issue alerts are:

  • New Zealand Police
  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand
  • The Ministry of Health
  • The Ministry for Primary Industries
  • The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management
  • Local Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups.

The agency sending the Emergency Mobile Alert will be identified in the alert message.

What will Emergency Mobile Alert be used for?

Emergency Mobile Alert will only be used for serious hazards that involve threats to life, health or property, or in some cases for test purposes.

For example Emergency Mobile Alert may be used to warn you of serious threats such as a tsunami affecting land areas, wildfire affecting people, armed offenders at large, or seriously contaminated drinking water. Emergency Mobile Alerts will not be used for advertising or promotions.

Can I reply to Emergency Mobile Alert messages?

No, you will not be able to respond to the Emergency Mobile Alert message or contact emergency services through this system. In an emergency please call 111.

Why was Emergency Mobile Alert technology chosen?

Emergency Mobile Alert was chosen as it’s reliable in an emergency. Emergency Mobile Alert uses a dedicated signal, so it’s not affected by network congestion.

Unlike text message, Emergency Mobile Alert is also very secure and doesn’t require the private details of recipients.

Emergency Mobile Alert is free and will be easy to access, there is no need to download an app or subscribe to a service. We anticipate most new phones sold by New Zealand mobile network operators will be capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Can my phone receive Emergency Mobile Alerts?

Initially, not all phones will be able to get Emergency Mobile Alerts. To check if your phone is able to receive Emergency Mobile Alerts, please check our list of capable phones. If your phone is on the list, ensure the phone is updated to the latest available operating system.

If your phone is configured to receive Emergency Mobile Alerts overseas, it may also work in New Zealand.

We expect the number of Emergency Mobile Alert capable phones to increase over time, as we anticipate most new phones sold by New Zealand mobile network operators will be capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Check the list of capable phones.

Where can I buy an Emergency Mobile Alert capable phone?

If buying a new phone, look for the Emergency Mobile Alert Identification Mark that may be displayed at point of sale. Check with your chosen mobile service provider as an increasing number of phones will be capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Check the list of capable phones.

I don’t have a smart phone, will my phone be able to get Emergency Mobile Alerts?

Emergency Mobile Alerts will not be available on all phones immediately, but over time we expect more phones to be Emergency Mobile Alert capable. Please check to see if your phone is Emergency Mobile Alert capable.

We expect the number of Emergency Mobile Alert capable phones to increase over time, as we anticipate most new phones sold by New Zealand mobile network operators will be capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Can I opt out of getting Emergency Mobile Alerts?

In New Zealand, you won’t be able to opt-out of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts. Phones may show settings that are used in other countries where they can opt out of different levels of alerts, but in New Zealand we will use a special broadcast channel that is permanently on.

Will Emergency Mobile Alerts go to my landline or satellite phone?

No. Emergency Mobile Alert uses the New Zealand mobile networks and can only be broadcast to mobile phones capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts.

Will Emergency Mobile Alert work everywhere in NZ?

Emergency Mobile Alert should work in areas with cell reception. About 97% of populated areas get cell reception, and work is being done by the mobile service operators to improve mobile coverage all the time.

Why did I receive an Emergency Mobile Alert test message?

Testing is a necessary part of making sure the Emergency Mobile Alert system works well.

There’s a small possibility you may receive further test messages if you’re close to a New Zealand mobile test-site. To ensure minimal interruption, future testing will only take place during New Zealand daylight hours and will be supervised by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.

Why did I not receive an Emergency Mobile Alert message?

There are a number of reasons you may not receive an Emergency Mobile Alert message. For this reason we encourage everyone to rely on a number of different ways to stay informed.

In the first instance, check your phone is Emergency Mobile Alert capable and up to date.

Other possible reasons for not receiving the alert may include your phone being off, on flight mode or out of cellular coverage.

Will Emergency Mobile Alert be used to gather data about me?

No. The Emergency Mobile Alert system is just used to broadcast messages. It is impossible for Emergency Mobile Alert to collect information about you, your cell phone use, or your location.

Will Emergency Mobile Alert work if cell phone towers are damaged, or if there is a power outage?

Emergency Mobile Alert may not work if mobile phone towers are damaged or if there is a power outage. For this reason you must also rely on other information sources.

Emergency Mobile Alert is just one way of finding out about serious threats, so ensure you have an emergency plan and know where to find more information during an emergency.

Will Emergency Mobile Alerts replace other warnings?

No. Emergency Mobile Alerts are not meant to replace other emergency alerts, or the need to take action after natural warnings.

You still need to be prepared for an emergency and you should not wait to get an alert before you act. If you feel your life is in danger, don’t wait for an official warning. Take immediate action.

Make sure you have your own emergency plan which includes what to do, where to go, who to go to for help and who you might need to look out for.

You can find more information about emergency plans on our Happens website.

What should I do if I’m driving when I receive an Emergency Mobile Alert?

You should pull over and check the message as soon as it is safe to do so. If you have a passenger, ask them to read the alert immediately. Do not attempt to read the alert while driving.

Does Emergency Mobile Alerts have a cost?

Receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts is free. There is no cost to you. You don’t have to download an app or subscribe to a service.

Will Emergency Mobile Alerts phones be more expensive?

No. Phones capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts should not be more expensive because of this feature.

What languages will Emergency Mobile Alerts be broadcast in?

Emergency Mobile Alerts will only be available in English at this stage.

Will Emergency Mobile Alerts be accessible for vision and hearing impaired people?

The accessibility of Emergency Mobile Alerts will vary depending on the make and model of the mobile phone.