How Spain will start warning you via SMS of nearby dangers 

The Spanish government will soon introduce a new mobile alert system that will warn people in Spain of nearby catastrophes or emergencies. Here's everything you need to know.

phone alert
Spanish government phone alert. Photo: Dean Moriarty / Pixabay

Spain’s General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies, which belongs to the Ministry of the Interior, has proposed a “system of warnings for the population” that will be released this summer.

Through this service, the Spanish government will be able to alert people of any catastrophes or other potentially dangerous incidents that occur near the area where they are.

This could include anything such as the huge snow storm, like was seen in Madrid last winter or a volcano eruption like was seen recently on the Canary island of La Palma.

How will it work?

Initially, the government was planning on sending SMS text messages, but the Ministry of the Interior warned that these could take several hours to get through to everyone.

Therefore, to transmit the messages they will use Cell Broadcast technology, which is a method of sending messages to multiple mobile telephone users in a defined area at the same time, meaning it will be faster.

It takes up little bandwidth and is automatic so that all the devices that are within the area will receive the message.

However, you must have a modern smartphone for it to be compatible with the system, it won’t work with a very old phone.

What about tourists and foreigners in the area?

The technology means that it won’t only be those with registered Spanish mobile numbers who will receive the alerts, anyone with a mobile phone in a specific area will receive one, regardless of their phone number.

However, the authorities have said that the messages will only be written in Spanish, English and the co-official language of the region such as Catalan in Catalonia.  

What will happen when I receive a message?  

The messages will be accompanied by an alarm sound so that users will know when an important notification has arrived. The alarm will play constantly until you’ve read the message. The system will only work with two alert levels out of the three established by the current Civil Protection Protocol.

The Filomena storm and the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano were at alert level two. 

Leonardo Marcos, general director of Civil Protection, has defined this service as a “112 in reverse”. 

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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.