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'IT-Alert': How Italy will warn you of nearby emergencies via text

The Local Italy
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'IT-Alert': How Italy will warn you of nearby emergencies via text
A example of an alert message sent by Italy's new mobile warning system. Image courtesy of IT-Alert.

A new alert system set up to warn people of potential emergencies in their area is now being tested across Italy. But how exactly will it work once operative?

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People in Milan, Rome, Venice and other cities will get a text message from the government in the coming weeks as Italy continues the test of its new nationwide alert system.

How will the new system work?

Many countries around Europe have introduced text-message alert systems recently and now Italy will follow suit with 'IT-alert', which will operate in much the same way as the systems in place in France, Spain and Germany, for example. 

In the case of “ongoing or imminent emergencies or catastrophic events”, the system will “send all mobile phones in a specific geographic area a public alert via text”, according to IT-Alert’s website.

The website stated that mobile phones will emit a "prolonged" alert tone upon receiving the text. The tone will be “well distinguishable and different from usual ringtones”.

Phones will not receive alert messages "if they are turned off or without reception" and may not make a noise if on silent or set to vibrate.

The system will not require people to subscribe to notification services nor to download any apps.

"Every mobile device connected to the mobile operators' networks, if turned on, can receive an "IT-alert" message," the website explains.

The alerts are not necessarily sent to everyone in a region or city, but can be sent within a small area "that corresponds as closely as possible to that affected by the emergency."

Man looking at mobile phone

Once operative, IT-alert will warn people in a specific area of ongoing or imminent dangers via text message. Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP

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The text message, written both in Italian and English, will include information about the incident as well as any “self-protection measures to be adopted immediately”.

When will it be tested?

Testing is being done gradually by region.The remaining areas set to test the system in the coming weeks:

  • September 19th in Basilicata, Lombardy and Molise
  • September 21st in Valle d'Aosta and Veneto
  • September 26th in Abruzzo and in the Autonomous Province of Trento
  • September 27th in Lazio and Liguria
  • October 13th in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano

Tests are expected to be completed by the end of 2023, with the system then expected to be implemented at a national level at some point in 2024. 

What will it be used for?

IT-alert will be used to notify people of serious emergencies or natural disasters unfolding or about to take place in their area. 

According to its official website, the system will be used in the case of: 

  • Tsunamis
  • Volcanic activity
  • Nuclear incidents
  • Incidents involving dangerous or life-threatening substances
  • Extreme weather events

Who will operate the alert system?

In its current trial phase, IT-alert is being operated by Italy’s civil protection agency.

Once up and running on a national scale however, police forces, local fire departments and other emergency services will also be able to send out alerts to the public.  

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