Victims of domestic violence were shown how to turn off a government emergency alarm on their mobile phones ahead of a nationwide test on Sunday.
At 3pm, a siren-like emergency alert message was sent to 4G and 5G mobile phones across the UK to test a new public warning system.
The message, which appeared on the home screens of mobile phones, had a piercing sound and caused the devices to vibrate for up to 10 seconds, even if the phone was on silent mode.
Phone users were asked to acknowledge the warning by scrolling or clicking on the message before they could continue using their device.
The system, modeled on similar schemes in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands and Japan, is intended for use in life-threatening situations including floods and fires.
The scheme will initially focus on the most severe severe weather events, with the ability to send a message to 90% of mobile users within the affected area in the event of an emergency.
Users are unable to use other features on their devices unless they acknowledge the warning.
Watch: How to manage emergency alerts on your phone
Today’s test coincided with major events including the London Marathon and the 2.00pm Premier League ties between Bournemouth and West Ham and Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur.
Officials said they worked with the Football Association and marathon organizers to ensure the impact of the test was limited.
But the plan had raised some concern among activists advocating for victims of domestic violence.
The domestic abuse charity Refuge has released a video on YouTube advising victims how to avoid the message notifying abusers of back phones who may be hiding in an emergency at home.
The government has also warned people who were driving at the time of the alarm not to try to turn it off, reminding motorists that it is illegal to use a portable device while behind the wheel.
Tapping on your phone while driving could result in a £200 fine and six points on your license, while attempting to respond to the alert while driving is feared to lead to accidents.
Official government advice was, and remains, not to respond to a warning and to continue driving before it is safe and legal to stop and read the message or get a passenger to respond.
However, there are ways to prevent emergency alerts from reaching your phones entirely.
Android users are asked to search for “emergency alert” in their phone’s settings section, then use the switches to turn off any alerts they don’t want.
Apple phone owners should go to the notifications section in settings and scroll to the bottom of the page where they will find an emergency alerts section where they can be disabled.
Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden, whose department is charged with managing the test, said ahead of time: ‘We are strengthening our national resilience with a new emergency alert system, to deal with a broad range of threats, from fire floods.
“It will revolutionize our ability to warn and inform people that they are in immediate danger and help keep them safe.
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“As we’ve seen in the US and elsewhere, the buzz of a phone can save a life.”
Individuals who do not wish to receive future notices can opt-out as described above.
Alerts will only ever come from the government or emergency services and will include details of the affected area and provide instructions on how best to respond.
The Cabinet said the alerts were safe, free to receive and one-way, insisting they did not reveal anyone’s location or collect personal data. Prior to Sunday’s National Test, minor tests had already taken place at East Suffolk and Reading.
The scheme could eventually be expanded to cover terrorist incidents, but officials acknowledged that much more information would be needed on how the alert system works in the UK before this could happen in response to a fast-moving attack.