Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Queensland Floods Report Lacks Communications Strategy

The Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry Interim Report was released 1 August 2011. Several or the recommendations refer to the use of telecommunications for flood warnings, telephones, SMS, mobile phones, the Internet and the web. However, what is lacking from the Queensland response to the flood, and the report's recommendations, is an overall strategy for the use of telecommunications for disaster preparedness and response. The recommendations refer to different forms of telecommunications in different places, rather than an overall strategy of preparing clear messages and then issuing them via all available and appropriate communications channels.

Recommendations relating to telecommunications:
2.24 Seqwater should give consideration to posting information about current and future releases on its website during flood events as one method of ensuring accurate and timely information is available to the public.

3.6 Every local government should publish its disaster management plan (and relevant sub-plans) on its website before the next wet season.

4.2 Councils should prepare SMS alert templates covering a range of different flood scenarios before the wet season.

4.3 SMS alerts should direct recipients to websites or contact numbers providing more detailed information about flood locations and predictions, the location of evacuation centres and evacuation routes.

4.4 Councils and Emergency Management Queensland should work together to ensure the approval process does not cause delays in delivering SMS alerts.

4.18 Dam operators should assess the effectiveness of using SMS and/or email as a bulk instantaneous communication to all people on the notification list while individually contacting those whom it is essential to inform immediately.

2.19 Seqwater should ensure that all telephone calls within the flood operations centre are digitally recorded to create an accurate record of decision-making during major flood events.

4.23 Operators of dams should publicise, in a newspaper circulating in the local area and by posting a notice on its website every year before the wet season, the opportunity for local residents immediately downstream of a dam to be included on the existing notification list, and:
  • consider whether an applicant for notification is so close to the dam that the warning time before water from the dam affects them is less than that available through the emergency management system
  • consider whether they can be effectively notified by SMS or email
  • if it is necessary to contact the applicant personally, agree with him or her a mode for that communication.
4.28 In rural and remote areas where telecommunications are not effective, measures that do not rely on internet and mobile telephone services should be implemented to inform the travelling public of road conditions ahead, for example:
  • signs with detailed information
  • providing tourist information centres and tourist radio stations with information on road conditions.
4.31 Councils should advise the Bureau of Meteorology of any information they possess about flash flooding (or the immediate prospect of it) likely to endanger life or property in their region, and of any warnings they issue about such flash flooding. The Bureau of Meteorology should consider in each case whether any such warning should be re-published (whether as a warning emanating from the Bureau itself or as attributed to the relevant council) on the Bureau’s website, or whether it should provide a link to any council warning or other information regarding flash flooding provided by councils or disaster management agencies.

4.32 Where the Bureau of Meteorology has information which leads it to anticipate flash flooding likely to endanger life or property in a specific area, it should publish a warning to that effect on its website.

5.45 That advice should be given using as many mechanisms as appropriate, including text message, radio and door knocking.

Sections of the report

The report is 266 pages. The Full report, is available as one 12Mbyte PDF file, or in sections:

Front matter:

1 comment:

Jim said...

No menton of Facebook? The Queensland Police early and proactive use of Facebook was both inspired and exemplary. It caught me by surprise how effective they were at pushing and amplifying their message using a popular medium with authority rather than using an essentially passive website. It essentially went viral as a trusted source of flood information. Impressive.