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Foreign Office trials emergency text service

No warnings for London riots though

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Without a trace of irony, the UK foreign office has today launched a text-alert service for overseas travellers, warning them of potential unrest so they can hurry home to the safety of the UK.

The service is being trialled with Vodafone, and will automatically send out a text message to Vodafone customers in any foreign country where there has been a natural disaster or civil unrest. Note that alerts only go to foreign countries; don't expect Vodafone to start warning Londoners to be on their guard.

The canned quote from Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne explains the motivation behind the service:

"The recent consular crises in Libya and Japan have demonstrated the need to deliver live travel safety messages to as many people as quickly as possible".

Given that mobile operators know where their customers are, and can contact them instantly, the service makes a lot of sense, though it will still run alongside existing Twitter and Facebook advice services.

The trial will run with Vodafone for a year, and if all goes well the service will spread to the other operators. So if you're abroad in the next 12 months and all the Vodafone customers start heading for the hills, it might be worth taking note. ®

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