Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Masterclass on National Bushfire Warning System

Apart from "Green ITSM" I have offered draft material on how to build a National Bushfire Warning System for Australia as part of a masterclass. on technical writing at ANU. So I need to write something on the topic. As a starting point, I have the abstract in the seminar announcement , a conference talk on "Community Warning Systems" and an "Australian Community Warning System Proposal" submitted to the Council of Australian Governments. Since then I have looked at "Obligation for Australian broadcasters to provide emergency warnings ", "Fault in Pacific Tsunami Warning System", "Mobile beep for emergency Cell Broadcast" and "Australian Emergency Alert System". My conclusion from this is:
  1. SMS is not suitable for large scale use in a community warning system. SMS is too slow (taking around an hour to send 1M messages) and addressing information is lacking.
  2. Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB) is technically suitable (able to send millions of messages in a few seconds to all mobile phones in a specific location), but not currently sufficiently supported by the mobile phone industry to be usable for warnings to the general public.
  3. SMS and Cell Broadcast would be suitable as part of a system for relaying emergency messages from emergency services to the public via the broadcast media. This would improve on current methods using faxes and phone calls.
  4. Short text messages could reference detailed web based information.
  5. Standardised, efficient formats are required for web based emergency information. Accessibility and mobile guidelines can be used for designing an efficient readable format, as well as specialised guidelines for emergency information.
Given I now have my conclusion, I need to find some references to support it. ;-)

More seriously, the problem is to define the topic sufficiently to be able to find relevant work. Emergency management is a very wide topic, and even communication for emergencies has a large literature. One good place to start is the recent work on XML based formats for emergency messages, being pioneered by the
OASIS Emergency Management Adoption Technical Committee and members such as Renato Iannella at at NICTA.

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