Friday, September 16, 2011

Canberra Emergency Warnings About Factory Fire

The ACT Emergency Services Agency issued an emergency warning for Canberra at 11:52pm 15 September 2011:
Factory fire in Mitchell The ACT Fire Brigade is responding to reports of a large factory fire in Dacre Street at Mitchell.

Update to follow.
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".

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.

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.


Maxious said...

What about the ANU emergency alert system? Why wasn't it activated?

Good to see ACT ESA using their twitter account for the first time.

Tom Worthington said...

Maxious asked September 16, 2011 8:41 AM:

>What about the ANU emergency alert system? Why wasn't it activated?

I don't know if the Austrlaian National University Emergency SMS System was used to alert staff and students

While I am both an Adjunct Lecturer (who teaches about emergency communications) and a student at the university, I have been unable to work out how to register for the alerts.