Tis the season to BEEEEEEEEEP - Nationwide test alert this Sunday

Note: this news item refers to the 2018 test. The 2019 nationwide test of Emergency Mobile Alert will be held on the evening of 24 November 2019. You should expect to receive a test alert that evening sometime between 6 and 7 pm.

It’s not just Christmas that comes once a year. This Sunday, on 25 November, about three million phones are expected to chime - not with Jingle Bells, but with a loud noise marking the annual nationwide test alert from the Emergency Mobile Alert system.

The system, which is administered by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management (MCDEM) on behalf of a range of agencies, is undergoing a nationwide live test on Sunday between 6pm and 7pm.  

Those people whose mobile phones are capable of receiving the alerts can expect to hear a loud, penetrating sound, and a notification will display. The test alert will link to the Civil Defence website, where people can fill out a brief survey about how they experienced the alert. This will inform future improvements to the system and gather feedback for mobile phone providers.

“Fast and reliable information is crucial when emergencies strike. Emergency Mobile Alert is another vital information channel for alerting people if their life, health or property is in danger,” says MCDEM Director Sarah Stuart-Black.

“Some people will be a little more used to the system if they received last year’s test message, or any of the messages that were issued throughout the year for local issues such as emergency boil water notices. For others, it will be the first time they’ve experienced it.”

Mrs Stuart-Black says Emergency Mobile Alert uses cell broadcast technology, which is also used in a number of countries including the United States, Japan, Chile and the Netherlands. There’s no need to subscribe or download an app  - all you need is a mobile phone that is capable of receiving Emergency Mobile Alerts, and a network signal.

“It uses internationally proven technology that isn’t susceptible to overloading, which is vital when we need to rapidly alert a large number of people."

“However, no form of technology is completely failsafe, so it doesn’t replace other alerting channels such as radio or social media, or the need to act upon natural warning signs.”

Last year 34% of devices received the test alert; this is expected to rise to about half of all phones (about three million), because an increasing number of people now have Emergency Mobile Alert compatible phones.

Mrs Stuart-Black says the nationwide test is a way to test our systems, the cell towers and your phone’s ability to receive an Emergency Mobile Alert.

“Not all phones are capable of receiving the alerts, so if you receive an emergency alert, let others know. You can check whether your phone is capable of receiving alerts at www.civildefence.govt.nz. If you feel your life is in danger, don’t wait for an official warning.”

Mrs Stuart-Black says 2Degrees, Spark, and Vodafone have all actively supported the Emergency Mobile Alert system, which was launched with the first nationwide test alert in November last year.


What you need to know:

  • No need to subscribe.There is no need to sign up or download an app.   If your phone is on and capable of receiving them, you should get the alerts. You can find out whether your phone can receive the alerts at www.civildefence.govt.nz and ensure your phone is on the most up to date operating system. 
  • Works by geo-targeting. Emergency Mobile Alerts can also be targeted to affected areas, so you will only get them if the emergency is in your area. Sunday’s test alert will be sent to all areas in New Zealand with mobile coverage.
  • You can’t opt out. As Emergency Mobile Alert is about keeping you safe, you won’t be able to opt-out. Your phones may show optional settings used in other countries, but in New Zealand we will use a special broadcast channel that is permanently on.
  • Who can send an alert? Emergency Mobile Alert messages can only be sent by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management, Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups, NZ Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
  • Don’t ditch the radio.  Emergency Mobile Alert is an additional channel to help keep New Zealand safe in an emergency and does not replace other alerting channels such as radio and social media, or the need to take action after natural warnings. If you feel your life may be in danger, don’t wait for an official warning. Take immediate action. Remember – Long or strong, get gone.
  • What if I’m driving? If you are driving when you receive an alert, wait until it is safe to stop and then check the message.
  • Make a plan. Take the time to make your own emergency plan which includes what to do, where to go, who can help you and who might need your help. You can make a plan online at www.happens.nz.


Find out more about Emergency Mobile Alerts at www.civildefence.govt.nz.  



Published: Nov 22, 2018, 4:19 PM