Factory fire in Mitchell The ACT Fire Brigade is responding to reports of a large factory fire in Dacre Street at Mitchell.At 12:42am 16 September 2011 a second message indicated "Firefighters have been forced to move a few hundred metres back from the premises ..." and that "the business, Energy Service International (ESI), works with materials including oil from electricity transformers".
Update to follow.
At 1:14am a third update advised "... ACT Fire Brigade has now ordered the evacuation of the whole suburb of Mitchell including a number of campers at Exhibition Park" and residents were advised to remain indoors.
At 2:27am "... Firefighters have been forced to retreat back from the fire following multiple explosions ...".
At 4:10pm the Emergency Alert system was used to issue a message to advise "residents within a 10 kilometre radius to remain indoors until further notice". Unfortunately I did not receive the message, although my mobile phone is registered within the danger zone (the system was last tested, 7 June 2011).
Media reports indicated that the warning message contained spelling mistakes and some residents therefore concluded they were a hoax. This is a serious problem which needs to be investigated after the current emergency is over. Such messages need to be composed from pre-prepared and tested templates, not ad-hoc. In 2003 one of my students investigated what was needed for credible emergency communications.
At 5:09am ACT ESA also commenced using Twitter as @act_esa with text messages summarizing the more detailed information on the ESA web site.
At 6:37am Update 11 reported PCB and Phosgene may in the smoke plume. But at 6:59am "ACT Fire Brigade have confirmed testing has resulted in no positive readings for Phosgene to date".
In June I suggested that ACT Emergency Services Agency needed to correct faults in their web home page. A quick test today shows that these faults remain. There a federal parliamentary inquiry into emergency communication networks is to report in November.