Thousands of smartphone subscribers received a surprise emergency message on their mobile phone screens on Thursday that read ‘Emergency alert: Severe’.

This was part of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which has started testing the emergency cell broadcast technology developed by Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), to alert people at the time of natural disasters.

This system prevails in developed countries at present. For instance, the US has Emergency Alert System (EAS), a warning system designed to allow authorised officials to broadcast emergency alerts and warning messages to the public via cable, satellite, television, AM/ FM and satellite radio.

“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,” read the flash message received by multiple smartphone users around 1:30 pm on Thursday.

According to Rajkumar Upadhyay, Chief Executive Officer, C-DOT, the technology is available only with a foreign vendor and, hence, C-DOT is developing it in-house.

“The cell broadcast technology is under development. It will be implemented by NDMA for sending out alert at the time of disaster directly on the mobile phone screens. It is being tested on Jio and BSNL network,” he said.

Upadhyay said there are various versions of the cell broadcast messages that are required to be developed to propagate through telecom network. “The trials will be conducted at pan-India level,” he added.

On July 20 also, similar message was sent as an alert across multiple cities in the country in a similar way, which was reportedly received from the Department of Telecommunication.

The notification read, “Emergency Alert: Severe. This is a test alert from Department of Telecommunication, Government of India. 20-07-2023.”