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Govt of India conducts second successful emergency alert test on mobile devices; here’s why

Mobile users across India received an emergency alert on Tuesday morning. The message, accompanied by an emergency tone, was sent at approximately 11:35 AM to Android and iPhone devices. However, there is no need for panic, as this alert was part of a crucial test for the nation’s new emergency alert system, orchestrated by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The test involved sending emergency alerts to a random selection of smartphones throughout India. Upon receipt, users’ phones emitted a loud beep and displayed a flash message that conveyed “emergency alert: severe.” The message was transmitted twice, once in English and once in Hindi, with a brief time lapse.

The NDMA explained that the purpose of this alert was to evaluate the effectiveness of the newly implemented system and to pinpoint any potential issues. The alert was transmitted through the Cell Broadcasting System (CBS) between 11:30 PM and 11:44 PM IST. It explicitly informed recipients that it was merely a test and required no action on their part.

The flash message read, “This is a SAMPLE TESTING MESSAGE sent through Cell Broadcasting System by Department of Telecommunication, Government of India. Please ignore this message as no action is required from your end. This message has been sent to test Pan-India Emergency Alert System being implemented by National Disaster Management Authority. It aims to enhance public safety and provide timely alerts during emergencies. Timestamp: 10-10-2023 11:30 AM 11.”

It’s worth noting that CBS is a technology that enables mobile operators to send text messages to all phones within a specified area, regardless of the mobile network they are on. This feature makes it an ideal tool for disseminating emergency alerts.

The NDMA is conducting these tests to ensure that the alert system functions smoothly and can effectively reach the populace in the event of a genuine emergency. These tests also serve the purpose of identifying areas where improvements may be necessary.A similar flash message was distributed to users a few weeks ago. The Department of Telecommunications Cell Broadcasting System (DoT CBS) has stated its intentions to periodically conduct similar tests in various regions. These tests are designed to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of mobile operators’ emergency warning broadcast capabilities and cell broadcast systems.Rajkumar Upadhyay, CEO of C-DOT, revealed that the technology for cell broadcast is presently only available from foreign vendors. However, C-DOT is actively developing its own version. He mentioned that the cell broadcast technology is still in the developmental phase but is being tested on the Jio and BSNL networks. “The cell broadcast technology is under development and will be utilized by NDMA to send alerts directly to mobile phone screens during disasters. It is currently undergoing testing on the Jio and BSNL networks,” he informed PTI.

Upadhyay further emphasized the need to develop various versions of cell broadcast messages for propagation through the telecom network.

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