Phones’ early warning system

Phones’ early warning system

3 August 2009

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Australia — A curcial technology gap is being filled to ensure the nation’s new bushfire early warning system starts on time.

The system of advance phone alerts is due for an October start ahead of this year’s bushfire season.

There is presently no way of accurately and securely matching fire danger areas with up-to-date phone numbers from Telstra’s database.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has awarded a contract to Sydney-based IT firm Intech Solutions to deliver the “location-based number store”.

It is the missing link in the plan to alert Australians by text or recorded message of worsening conditions for fire and other emergencies such as flood. To be operated by states and territories, the

National Telephone Emergency Warning System will allow designated emergency service chiefs to select and request phone numbers in the danger zone.

“The system will provide real time access to up-to-date telephone numbers while protecting the identity of individuals,” Mr McClelland said.

The new system will send messages this fire season based on the phone owner’s billing address rather than their physical location at any given moment.

This means some people visiting danger areas on days of high risk may not necessarily receive warnings.

Australian IT and telecommunications experts are being commissioned to find what would be a world-leading breakthrough on this front — with efforts concentrated on how much extra capacity is needed on the nation’s array of mobile phone towers.

Mr McClelland expects the NEWS system to be available in time for the bushfire season but warned it would be no silver bullet for preventing catastrophes.

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