Mt Clear fires: Alert system failure angers residents

Mt Clear fires: Alert system failure angers residents

3 January 2010

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Australia — MT Clear residents have labelled the new fire emergency warning system a failure, with many not receiving an alert on their mobile telephones or landlines during last week’s major bushfire.

The telephone emergency system was used for the first time in Victoria, with more than 10,000 people in Mt Clear and surrounding suburbs receiving a message to say there was a fire in their area.

But a flood of unhappy residents contacted The Courier expressing concern that they were not alerted to Thursday’s 31-hectare fire through the system, which they believe failed the test.

Others who live in Mt Helen, and one resident in Mt Clear, were impressed having received the message.

An Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner spokeswoman said a message may not reach every individual for a number of reasons, which was not disclosed.

“It is therefore critical that people do not solely rely on a telephone message as the only way to be warned,” the spokeswoman said.

“This is a new system and we welcome any feedback from individuals to improve it further.”

Tinworth Ave resident Andrew Walker-Morrison, who was incapacitated at the time of the fire, said a telephone message alerting him to the fire would have helped him prepare.

“If the warning system worked it would have been fantastic. There needs to be co-ordination,” Mr Walker-Morrison said.

Geelong Rd resident Sandra Armstrong learned of the fire through her daughter’s father-in-law who is in the Maldon CFA. “It would have been nice to see that the system worked,” she said.

Another Geelong Rd resident not alerted to the fire, Alan Thomas, said if he was not tuned into the radio he would not have known about the fire. He said the system needed to be improved.

Dozens of online readers posted comments on The Courier website over the weekend relaying the message that the system failed and needed to be improved to avoid future problems.

CFA Region 15 (Ballarat) headquarters requested a warning message to be put out at 6.22pm. Melbourne’s CFA state control centre then issued the message information to Telstra, which sent it to phones in affected areas.

The system has been used operationally in Victoria, NSW and South Australia over the past two weeks.

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