Australia — A new report on the national telephone-based warning system Emergency Alert has found the system to be working well. Releasing the report, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said since its launch in December 2009, Emergency Alert had been used by States and Territories to send in excess of 7 million messages relating to flood, tsunami, bushfire, storm surge, chemical incident and missing person emergencies. Emergency Alert proved to be an invaluable addition to the range of warning and information systems used to alert communities during the Queensland floods and Cyclone Yasi, as well as other disasters over summer, Mr McClelland said.
Following the unprecedented disaster season Australia faced over summer, it was important to review the effectiveness of systems such as Emergency Alert. He said the review found Emergency Alert had been working well and was achieving its purpose when activated properly. He said there was an overall sense of satisfaction with the current system of message development and delivery. Mr McClelland said the Assessment of the Effectiveness of Emergency Alert was managed by the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission and the Torrens Resilience Institute; and was funded through the Australian Governments National Emergency Management Projects scheme. He said the review included a survey of 900 households in regions where the system had been used, finding that 97 per cent of people who had received a message said the message was clear; 84 per cent understood and acted on the warning; and another 84 per cent said the system met or exceeded their expectations. The Attorney-General said users and operators had also expressed confidence in the systems future development. Mr McClelland said the review did identify however that community preparedness was the weakest part of the warning system.
While it is important that we develop strong emergency warning systems we also need to ensure our communities are ready, willing and able to deal with natural disasters when they occur, he said.
Of particular concern is the need make families having recently arrived in Australia, international students and young people generally more aware of EA, and the need for such groups to have plans in place to react appropriately to a warning message.