Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lack of Australian emergency warning standard risks lives

Australian Fire Danger Ratings chart with levels: Low-Moderate, High, Very High, Severe, Extreme and Catastrophic (Code Red).For this bushfire season a new Australian National Emergency Warning System has been introduced. Unfortunately there appears to be no standard issued for the formatting of the messages and no harmonisation with other warning messages. As a result this will make it difficult to relay the messages quickly and reliably via media such as SMS. This could result in delayed, misleading or lost messages, with loss of life, as happened in the Victorian Brushfires last year.

After last season when more than 100 lives were lost in Australia a new "Catastrophic (Code Red)" level has been added. There will be increased use on radio of the radio of the Australian Standard Emergency Warning Signal. There are now three Alert levels and warning messages: "Advice", "Watch and Act" and "Emergency Warning".

What is required is a precisely defined format for the messages to be issued. This format must be compatible with the systems which will be used to transmit the messages, including SMS. The message format and language must be consistent with that of other warning messages, including Tsunami warnings. Failure to do this risks lives.

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