London police offer SMS terror alerts

Police in London have updated their terrorist-alert pager system to include SMS messages.

Police in London have updated their terrorist-alert pager system to include SMS messages.

"It's a 24-hour service that is managed by the City of London Police with the support of the Metropolitan Police. It contacts all users in real time with a [short message service, or text] message that is sent within 30 seconds of the alert being received by us," said a City of London Police spokeswoman.

All businesses, including multinational corporations, are being encouraged to join the scheme so that they will be able to respond quickly to security alerts and other incidents, the spokeswoman said.

The City of London Police alert pager system originally started in 1993 and has been upgraded and expanded due to the heightened state of alert in light of the 11 September terrorist attacks, the spokeswoman said. Police departments in other UK cities are hoping to offer a similar service in the near future, she said.

Commander Frank Armstrong of the City of London Police said: "The pager alert scheme saves valuable minutes, even seconds, in communicating that there is a security threat. It is already part of the emergency and evacuation plans of a number of London companies."

Tim Wright, head of human resources and property for the Stock Exchange, agreed. "The scheme is a vital service as it enables businesses to react immediately to any security threats," he said.

There is a £8.25 monthly fee for the pager/text message service, which is being administered by PageOne Communications.

A slower, e-mail service is also available but it would only be effective if potential terrorists operate in office hours. The service is provided between 9am and 5pm.

There are currently 1,121 businesses using the pager system and 589 businesses have signed up for the e-mail alert system, the City of London Police said.

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