Australia — IN a world first, 5423 text messages were sent to people in Kariong on Monday afternoon for a trial of a new location-based mobile phone warning system.
Attorney General and Emergency Management Minister Nicola Roxon was at the Gosford Fire Control Centre at about 2.50pm as the messages were sent, at a rate of around 500 a second.
Residents and visitors in Kariong at that time would have received the test message. In the case of a real emergency, the message could advise people to get out or stay and shelter.
The trial only involved Telstra users, but next year when the system is rolled out across the country it will include Vodafone, Optus and other carriers.
It is the first time a text message warning system has been location-based.
The previous system saw messages sent to the billing addresses only, which meant visitors to a certain area would not get a warning message.
“It’s a very powerful tool,” Ms Roxon said.
“The Gillard government has invested nearly $60 million to establish and upgrade Emergency Alert so communities can be better prepared.
“We are the first country in the world to use it and we are very proud of it.”
Superintendent Steve Marsh used the older system during the recent Pretty Beach fires and said it was the “scariest” thing he had ever done.
“Just making the call when to send the message is scary – making sure it wasn’t too early or obviously too late,” he said.
STAY AWARE OF CONDITIONS
Robertson federal Labor MP Deb O’Neill, who accompanied Ms Roxon, said the recent fires at Pretty Beach were a reminder of the disasters which could happen in the region.
“The Gosford Fire Control Centre was here to help coordinate and respond to the Pretty Beach fire, but residents and the community should always remember that staying aware of conditions and listening to various information outlets such as radio, television, emergency management websites and social media is also important,” she said. The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.