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 sent by authorised emergency agencies to capable mobile phones. The alerts are broadcast to all capable phones from targeted cell towers. The alerts can be targeted to areas affected by serious hazards.

If you get an alert, read the message and take it seriously. It will tell you what the emergency is and what to do. It will also tell you which agency sent the message and if needed, where to go for more information.

 

Can I opt out of getting Emergency Mobile Alerts?

As Emergency Mobile Alert is about keeping you safe, you won’t be able to opt-out of receiving Emergency Mobile Alert.

We do not target specific phones, instead we broadcast to a targeted area that is at risk. For this reason we are unable to exclude your specific phone.

Your phone may show optional settings used in other countries, but in New Zealand we will use a special broadcast channel that is permanently on.

 

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.

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

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

We expect one third of phones will initially be able to receive Emergency Mobile Alert. This number is expected to rise substantially over time as more phones are enabled.

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


Who sends Emergency Mobile Alerts?

Only authorised emergency agencies can send Emergency Mobile Alerts. Alerts will only be sent 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 & 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 is designed to help keep people safe if there is an emergency. The alerts will only be sent when there are serious threats to life, health or property, and 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.

Where has my Emergency Mobile Alert gone?

If you received an Emergency Mobile Alert, it may still be viewable on your phone.

On Android phones, the alert may be found in the Messages app.

For iPhone users, the alert will be in your notifications. Access your notifications by swiping down from the top of your screen. If you delete your notifications, the alert will also be deleted.

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.

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.

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 Alert 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 Alert 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 Alert 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 Alert broadcast in?

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

Will Emergency Mobile Alert 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.

Will Emergency Mobile Alert work using Sure Signal?

No. Emergency Mobile Alert will not be broadcast to phones connected to Sure Signal device. 

Why was there a test of Emergency Mobile Alert?

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

The nationwide test was sent to cell towers all over New Zealand and we expect approximately two million phones were capable of receiving the alert.

The test allowed us to evaluate the system, cell towers and your phone’s ability to receive the alert.

We’ve already received thousands of feedback submissions from people which will help us evaluate and improve the Emergency Mobile Alert system.

If you’d like to give us feedback about Emergency Mobile Alert, feel free to complete our Emergency Mobile Alert feedback form.

Why did my capable phone not receive the test alert?

We are investigating the various reasons phones did not receive the alerts. Common issues we’ve identified so far include:

  • The phone’s operating system was not on the required operating system, or the latest version. Make sure your phone’s software is up to date.
  • The alert was received but not easy to find. On iPhones, the alert was often kept in the notifications panel, which and can be viewed by swiping down from the top of the screen.

Thank you to everyone who has submitted feedback via our form. The information you have provided will be very useful for identifying areas for improvement.

Why did my phone receive an alert multiple times?

The nationwide test was broadcast on 3G and 4G from approximately 6.15 pm to 7 pm. If your phone moved from 3G to 4G during this time, you will have received an alert from both networks. The same thing would have happened if you turned flight mode on and off, or turned your phone off and back on during the test broadcast period.

Some phones had an optional alert reminder feature turned on. This caused the phone to alarm repeatedly during the broadcast. If your phone has an alert reminder, it is found within the Wireless Alerts/Broadcast Alerts/Emergency Alerts settings – any of these names may be used.

Why did the alert “disappear” on iPhone?

Some users have reported that the alert disappeared when they tried to view it. On iPhones, the alert is kept in the notifications panel which and can be viewed by swiping down from the top of the screen. We’re investigating if this can be made more intuitive.

Why did some alerts say “presidential alert”?

The Emergency Mobile Alert system uses an international standard and the broadcast channel we use is often called “Presidential Alert” overseas.

We have worked with the phone manufacturers and New Zealand mobile network operators to use the term “Emergency Alert” instead. However, some phones pre-dating this, or bought overseas, will use the American international standard and will display “Presidential Alert”.