Everyone across the UK with a mobile phone will receive a “warning of disaster” on their phones later this month.

The UK wide test of the life-saving public Emergency Alerts system will take place at 3pm on Sunday, April 23.

The system has already been tested on a local level in East Suffolk and Reading, with people receiving an alert on the home screen of their mobile phone, along with a sound and vibration for up to ten seconds.

During this test, the public does not need to take any action, and the sound and vibration will stop automatically after ten seconds.

All people will need to do is swipe away the message or click ‘OK’ on the alert to clear their home screen.

The alert will work just like a ‘low battery’ warning or notification, and the mobile phone will continue to work as normal.

However, drivers are being warned not to turn off the alert while behind the wheel, or they will face six points on their licence and a fine.

Government advice states that you shouldn’t read or respond to an emergency alert while driving.

Drivers should instead wait until they find somewhere legal to stop their car before reading or ask a passenger to clear the notification for you.

The Highway Code states that you must not hold and use a mobile phone to text, make calls, take photos or videos, or browse the web, while behind the wheel of the car.

This law still applies while stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic, supervising a learner driver, driving a car that turns off the engine when you stop moving, and holding and using a device that’s offline or in flight mode.

The nationwide test of the Emergency Alert system will take place later this month.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Dowden MP said: “Put the date in your diaries - at 3pm on 23 April, we'll be testing our new national Emergency Alerts system.

“Getting this system operational with the national test means we have another tool in our toolkit to keep the public safe in life-threatening emergencies. It could be the sound that saves your life.”

Chair of The National Fire Chiefs Council, Mark Hardingham, added: “We must use every tool at our disposal to keep people safe, and we need everyone to play their part - and the new Emergency Alerts system is one way we can do this.

“For 10 seconds, the national test may be inconvenient for some, but please forgive us for the intrusion, because the next time you hear it - your life, and the life-saving actions of our emergency services, could depend on it.”

Similar systems are already in place in countries such as the US, Canada, Netherland and Japan, where best practice has shown that they work more effectively in a real emergency if people have previously received a test.

The system will be used very rarely - only being sent where there is an immediate risk to people’s lives - so people may not receive an alert for months or years.

In the UK, alerts could be used to tell residents of villages being encroached by wildfires, or of severe flooding.