The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has partnered with UK mobile operator Vodafone to trial a new emergency text message service which will alert Vodafone customers and those connected to its network when there has been a major crisis – such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

The Foreign Office will pilot its service for a period of one year, initially sending free text messages to mobile phone owners in the UK with plans to explore the delivery of important information via a range of mobile and online tools, including smartphone apps and social media.

Other mobile providers taking part in the trial will be Asda Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Talkmobile, Talk Talk, BT Mobile, Gamma Telecom and Cognatel.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne says that the recent crises in Egypt, Libya and Japan have highlighted the need to deliver messages to people as quickly as possible and comes at a time when the UK is utilising mobile and social networks to communicate and notify friends and family of troubles in their area.

Browne adds:

The pilot is part of the Foreign Office’s commitment to improve consular services.

We will soon have the ability to send text messages to all affected British nationals registered on our crisis database.

As well as this we’re also exploring delivering important information through a range of mobile and online tools, including smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and making effective use of social media and digital tools.