Monday, October 03, 2011

Canberra Emergency News Alert Service

The ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell, announced an Internet based emergency alert service for Canberra on 30 September 2011. The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) will now provide information about emergencies via "ESA News Alerts" on the ESA home page, ESA News Alerts RSS feed, ESA Twitter account (@ACT_ESA); and
ESA Facebook account. Also there is an XML GeoRSS feed and ESA Incidents Map.

However, the minister's announcement did not address the problems which occurred with the formatting of text messages during a factory fire 15 and 16 September 2011. Poor formatting of the text messages cased confusion for the public. If the ESA is unable to correctly format a text message, then adding extra communication channels could compound the problem, adding to the confusion seen during the last emergency.

In addition the ESA web site failed an HTML validation test, with two errors. The web page scored zero out of 100 on the W3C mobileOK Checker, with three errors classed as critical. This could impede access to emergency information, particularly for people using mobile devices.

The ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Service needs to ensure that ESA has put in place procedures to ensure that clear and consistent messages are prepared for all communication channels and that the ESA web site meets technical standards.

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