radiodifusionesantenaThe latest smartphone models from BQ include a very special service: emergency broadcasts.

This service, which is integrated into Android Lollipop, is aimed at Android users that are potentially at risk, due to adverse weather conditions or similar.

When danger in general arises in a given location, smartphones users in the area will automatically receive an emergency broadcast via the GSM networks or the UMTS.

Diagram of how GSM networks work

Diagram of how GSM networks work

The alert is delivered to smartphones via short high-frequency audible messages and vibrations. The idea is that users will receive warnings immediately.

These alarm signals are different to the notifications configured by you on your device to receive alerts from apps you have installed.

What kind of alerts are sent out?

The alert messages are sent by government bodies via telecommunications towers to all devices which include this option and have had it enabled in advanced.

You can receive alerts on tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, sandstorms, extreme winds or missing persons.

Emergency broadcasts are not available everywhere in the world. As mentioned earlier, they are sent out by governments – not only by mobile phones, but also via TV and even electronic road sign -, and each individual state will make the decision to implement this type of service.

AMBER Alerts are the only type that is currently available in the United Kingdom. They are part of a child abduction alert system, which has been implemented in various countries since 1996.

AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response.

AMBER Alert logo

AMBER Alert logo

This early-warning system has been implemented in the UK since 2007. Alerts from official organisations such as the British Geological Survey for seismic monitoring, or the Met Office for extreme weather, etc., are not yet available via Android.

For the time being, we receive these kind of warnings through traditional media and on the social networks. However, the government has been conducting mobile alerting trials on public emergency alerts since 2013, and they a re highly likely to be made available in the near future.

Where and when you can enable these alerts on your BQ

Emergency alerts have been implemented into Android 5.0. However, they are not available on all of our devices. The service is currently available on the following models: Aquaris E5 4G, M5, M5.5 and X5.

To enable it, you will need to go to “Settings > More > Emergency broadcasts”. If you are using a SIM card, the Mobile Broadcast settings will then appear.

Enable each setting by ticking the boxes, as desired. You will then receive alerts based on the options you have selected.

You can enable the following alerts on your BQ:

  • Show extreme threats. Display alerts for extreme threats to life and property.
  • Show severe threats. Display alerts for severe threats to life and property.
  • Show AMBER alerts. Display child abduction emergency bulletins (AMBER alerts).
  • Turn on notifications. Display emergency alert broadcasts.
  • Alert sound duration. Select an alert sound duration of 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10 seconds.
  • Alert reminder. Enable or disable.
  • Vibrate. Make your device vibrate on alert.
The Emergency broadcasts settings menu (1)

The Emergency broadcasts settings menu (1)

  • Show channel 60 broadcasts. The service shows the settings for India separately, as indicated, where channel 60 is used to obtain data specifically from mobile operators in the country.

Developer options are also available.

  •  Show CMAS test broadcasts. Display test broadcasts for Commercial Mobile Alert System.
  • Show opt-out dialogue. Show an opt-out dialogue after displaying the first CMAS alert (other than Presidential Alert).
The Emergency broadcasts settings menu (2)

The Emergency broadcasts settings menu (2)

Official and free

So what’s the CMAS all about? This acronym stands for Commercial Mobile Alert System, which is also known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA).

It is basically a public security system which allows users of certain mobile phones and other compatible mobile devices to receive SMS-like alerts targeting a specific geographical area to alert them to any imminent security threats in the vicinity.

The technology ensures that emergency alerts are delivered in areas with a high concentration of users, where standard call and text message services could easily go down when everybody is attempting to contact their loved ones.

This protocol allows government agencies to send out emergency warnings to people located in the affected areas.

Mobile phone companies participate voluntarily in WEAs, thanks to an alliance between the public and private sector. Consequently, users can receive these alerts totally free of charge. It won’t cost you thing to receive these alerts and battery power will barely be affected.

If you are planning to travel abroad, these alerts can be really useful if enabled (depending on the location), as they will provide essential information to help keep you safe.

Marian Alvarez (@marianalvarezma on Twitter) is a reporter and has worked across multiple media. She has experience in various fields such as politics, society and its changes, fashion, decoration, and DIY. Her budding interest in new technologies and social media has brought her to BQ where she combines her work with her new passion.