I imagine many people, like me, have their phone on
Do not disturb overnight, so I was particularly startled and alarmed last night to be woken from a sound sleep around 0130 by my phone making an unmissable klaxon alert sound. Heart racing, I checked the phone to see this message:
Emergency Alert This is a test message for the Emergency Mobile Alert system that will be available by the end of 2017. Visit civildefence.govt.nz to find out more. Sent by the Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management.
How bizarre. But not bizarre enough, for a moment later the noise started again and another identical message appeared. And then, about 15 minutes later, after I’d finally settled down, yet a third appeared. At that point I turned off my phone.
Now, the key word in the message was
test. Still, a test at 1.30 am! I went searching immediately after the first alert for info and found nothing to say this test would happen or had happened. Weird, and disturbing. This morning Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management have updated their site. Emergency Mobile Alert says:
Some people have received test alerts from the new Emergency Mobile Alerts technology currently being developed. We are aware that some early testing is happening, and unfortunately some of the public’s phones have picked up these tests at an inconvenient hour.
We apologise to those who have been inconvenienced, and will request all testing is carried out during daylight hours in future.
I find it interesting that my phone
picked up the alert, which suggests they don’t actually broadcast it. Later on the same page though, they tell us how the system works, to broadcast alerts:
Emergency Mobile Alert uses a dedicated signal, so it’s not affected by network congestion. This can make Emergency Mobile Alert more reliable in an emergency when mobile phone traffic or people accessing websites could overload the network.
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.
Emergency Mobile Alert capable phones should work on all mobile networks in New Zealand.
So, how did my iPhone
pick up this alert (although my partner’s phone didn’t)? Apple tell us about how it works in the US: About emergency and AMBER alerts on your iPhone. Here’s how it looks in my Notifications Settings.
I’m glad they’re testing this new system (and clearly it works), but I sure wish some human hadn’t messed up with an unannounced test in the middle of the night. It took me ages to get back to sleep, so today I’m tired and headachey, and a bit grumpy.
I live in an area though where we are exposed to gale force winds, where earthquakes are common and tsunami could well sweep us away. It’s good to know the system could alert us to tsunami danger, and perhaps potentially catastrophic wind or rainfall. It’s also good to know an alert will wake me from a deep sleep. I just wish their test hadn’t malfunctioned as it did.