Defence test: did you get it?


If it rings, then heed the advice given and don’t ignore it. Act on it.

That is the message Civil Defence officers would like people to take away from the recent emergency mobile alert test.

Shortly after 6pm on November 25, three million cellphones up and down the country began vibrating and a new tone was heard as Civil Defence conducted a nationwide emergency mobile alert trial.

Otago Civil Defence and Emergency Management officer for the Clutha District, Brendon Smith, said many people knew it was coming but some got it and others didn’t, even in the same room.

“It was obvious the test message reached many more people than the first test in 2017 did,” he said.

“It is important now to determine by feedback through our website just how many it reached and also determine that at least one person in each household actually got it.”

The emergency mobile alert is a geographically controlled signal designed to reach all cellphone users in a defined area regardless of phone brand or their service providers.

Mr Smith said they were able to target exactly which cellphone towers are activated and which ones are not.

“That way we can target only those people in a specific area and not alarm everyone.

“For example we can alert all cellphone users in a defined geographic location such as a coastal region, about a tsunami but don’t need to alert people inland because it’s not going to affect them.

“Should anyone else such as a freedom camper or tourist enter that area then their phone will also receive the message,” he said

Clutha District Council roading asset management officer Sue Wilkins is a locally trained CDC employee who can also authorise the system activation.

She said only selected trained personnel from Civil Defence and police could initiate the call.

“There are strong protocols which govern when and how it is used and it is only activated when there is an imminent threat to life.”

Operators can only send dedicated text messages. The alert remains live until Civil Defence determines the threat has passed.

She said the testing of the emergency mobile alert system was important, as it is part of a programme of education in new technology to determine the system works well.

A Civil Defence spokeswoman said the results of the trial would be published next year.

To respond to the test, visit