Government emergency alert: how to turn off the tone if you are suffering domestic abuse

April 21st 2023

This weekend’s UK-wide government organised emergency alert test which will sound on all mobile phones – whether the sound is turned on or off – could spell danger to victims of coercive control.  The alert will take the form of a pop-up message accompanied by a loud tone and vibration which will cease automatically after 10 seconds. It is scheduled for 3pm on Sunday 23rd April.

Leading domestic abuse charity Refuge points out that the loud sound of the alert could reveal the presence of a victim’s phone to their abuser.

It is not uncommon for abusers to control or confiscate their victims’ mobile phones as a means of isolating them from friends and family and, therefore, assistance. This often leads the victim to keep a second phone, unbeknown to the abuser, which is an important mode of day-to-day communication and, equally important, summoning help.

It is not sufficient to switch devices to silent mode, as the emergency alert is designed to override this. Discovering a secondary phone could also escalate the abuse.

Refuge has put together an excellent short, easy-to-follow video on how to turn off emergency alerts, which can be viewed on YouTube. The advice covers both Android and Apple devices.

Alternatively, users can simply switch off their device entirely, or put it in aeroplane mode before the alert is sent out on Sunday.

Other information for victims

Refuge also publishes very useful information on securing digital devices to minimise the opportunity for abusers to exploit them. This can be found on the charity’s dedicated tech safety page.


Written by

Tim Mitchell

In partnership with