Australia– A long-awaited national bushfire warning system will be ready for operation next week after undergoing final testing in Victoria.
Premier John Brumby joined fire authorities in Torquay today for a public test of the system, which will be known as the Emergency Alert system.
More than 50,000 text and voice messages were sent based on local billing addresses.
Mr Brumby said the system would be officially launched by the Victorian and federal governments next week in time for summer.
“This is a system that will save lives, there’s no doubt about that,” Mr Brumby said.
“It is a system that will get a message out to people quickly and efficiently in life- threatening situations.”
Stage two of the system will enable warnings to be sent to mobile phones based on their geographical location.
Tests on the new warning system come as an inquiry was told yesterday the Country Fire Authority is no better prepared to manage a major bushfire disaster than on Black Saturday.
Rachel Doyle, SC, assisting the Bushfires Royal Commission, said the CFA’s failure to guarantee the most senior incident controller would be on deck at the start of a Code Red “catastrophic” day of bushfire threat could put lives at risk.
Deputy chief officer John Haynes admitted the CFA could not guarantee this, saying, “We may be able to do that but I cannot guarantee, Ms Doyle, that we’re going to actually . . . achieve that.”
The commission has heard a Level 3 incident controller was not appointed to manage the Kilmore East fire, which killed 119, until an hour after it had started, a delay blamed for a lack of public warnings.
Mr Haynes said only a core incident management team of eight, not including the top-level controller, could be guaranteed to be on deck by 10am on a Code Red day.
“Isn’t that exactly where we were in February this year?” Ms Doyle asked.
“The team . . . actually does the job, not one person. As a team, I reckon they’ll perform,” Mr Haynes replied.
CFA chief officer Russell Rees yesterday warned federal Victorian MPs the state faced the worst drought conditions since the 1930s.