Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Australian Community Warning System Proposal

My talk on Community Warning Systems at the APCO Communications Conference was reasonably well received. So I have proposed Australian Governments build such a national CSW system before the next fire season:
To: Council of Australian Governments (c/o COAG Secretariat, COAG Unit, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet)

This is to propose that Australian governments build a national community warning system. Such a system can be in place for the 2009/2010 bush-fire season at a cost of less than $10M. The system would be used for fires, tsunami, terrorist incidents and other emergencies. It would be capable of delivering a warning message in less than a minute to most of the Australian population, or a specific geographic area.

At the APCOA emergency communications conference today, I gave a brief outline of problems with the current proposals for the use of telephone based warnings and SMS messages. The alternative proposed is the use of "Cell Broadcast" text messages for alerts. The Internet, with specially designed web pages, can be used to provide preparatory information to the community before an emergency and information to help with recovery afterwards.

The technology for issuing text warnings is built into the mobile telephone network in Australia. A small amount of work will be required to make this system available for emergency personnel to issue warnings. The more difficult task is to educate the emergency personnel and the public as to what the system is for and how to use it.

See: Community Warning Systems - Balancing Technology and Reliability, Tom Worthington FACS HLM, for the APCO Australasia Annual Conference, Australian Technology Park, Sydney, 10am, 3 March 2009.

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