FCO launches crisis text service

The Foreign Office is piloting a service to deliver emergency text messages to Britons caught up in major overseas crises – such as a natural disaster or civil unrest.

The service, being trialled for 12 months with network provider Vodafone, is free to subscribers and will offer advice in the event of a crisis.

The initiative follows a review of the Foreign Office’s consular response to the Libya crisis when the department was criticised for taking too long to evacuate citizens.

In launching the service, the FCO Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne MP said: “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. The new service is part of the FCO’s vision to deliver better consular services more cost-effectively”.

The FCO hopes to roll out the service with other network providers and will also be trialling other digital methods of connecting to citizens in a crisis, including Smartphone apps, a travel advice site for mobile phones and social networking sites.