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Millions get a mobile warning

The test of a mobile nationwide emergency alert system is being hailed as a success, although its full reach won’t be known for some time.

John Price, director civil defence emergency management, estimated up to six million phones got the test message on Sunday evening.

“The Emergency Mobile Alert is sent by broadcasting a signal from cellphone towers, rather than sending individual messages to phones. The exact number of people who received the alert won’t be known until a survey later in the year, but we estimate between five and six million phones would have received it – that is, at least 90 per cent of mobile devices,” he said yesterday.

Wairarapa MP and Minister for Emergency Management Kieran McAnulty said while Sunday’s message had been widely received, data from the test will be used to further refine the process in future.

“From the number of messages, emails and comments on Facebook I’ve received, it seems like a pretty good response,” he said.

“Last year nine out of 10 people either received it or were with someone who did. This year we are hoping to lift those numbers. It depends on what phone people have, but even if people didn’t get the message, that’s okay, because it means we have the information we need to further improve the system.”

The test of the Emergency Mobile Alert system took place on Sunday between 6pm and 7pm.

Before the test, McAnulty said the annual nationwide test was a way to check the systems, cell towers, and people’s phone’s ability to receive an Emergency Mobile Alert, so emergency management authorities could have confidence the system would perform properly in an emergency.

“In an emergency, an alert may be sent to target areas affected by serious hazards. If you get an alert, stop, and 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,” McAnulty said.

Emergency Mobile Alert is an additional channel to help keep communities safe and does not replace other ways to stay informed, or natural warnings.

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