Emergency mobile alert system to be tested

Published: 24 May 2024

Sometime between 6pm and 7pm this Sunday (26 May), you can expect to hear your phone beeping loudly as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) tests the Emergency Mobile Alert system.

Emergency mobile alerts can be sent by authorised agencies such as Civil Defence, NZ Police and Fire and Emergency NZ, and are only sent when there is a serious threat to life, health or property.

They are broadcast to all mobile phones from cell towers and can be targeted to specific geographic areas affected by serious hazards. The system was used locally by Civil Defence during the May 2021 floods.

There is no option to opt out. If you get an alert, you should 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.

From previous tests, NEMA know that around nine in 10 people either received the alert themselves or were near someone who did.  However, authorities will not rely on only one communication channel during emergencies.

Civil Defence emphasises the importance of knowing the different ways you can stay informed during an emergency. Locally, these include:

  • Radio - If the power goes out, a solar or battery powered radio (or your car radio) can help you keep up to date with the latest news. In an emergency, tune to these stations: Hokonui, Radio New Zealand, The Hits, NewstalkZB and MoreFM.
  • Online – For official, local updates, check Ashburton District Council’s website and Facebook page, as well as the Canterbury Civil Defence Emergency Management Group website and social media.
  • Council text alerts – Civil Defence will use the EMA system for serious emergencies, however Council also has a free text service for local alerts and advisories. Text your postcode to 4196 to subscribe.
  • Neighbours – Get to know your neighbours so you can help each other while civil defence and emergency services are busy helping people who need them most. Get involved in your community and get to know your neighbours before an emergency happens.

To find out more about emergency mobile alerts or the upcoming test, visit getready.govt.nz/ema

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