The Australian Government today announced that it will fund the upgrade of the national emergency warning system, ‘Emergency Alert’, to deliver warnings to mobile phones based on the location of the handset.
The ‘Emergency Alert’ system currently sends warnings by recorded voice and text message to landlines and mobile phones based on an owner’s billing address rather than the actual location of a handset at the time of a disaster or emergency.
This has meant that people caught in a disaster zone, who have a billing address outside the affected area, have been unable to receive the vital and potentially lifesaving warnings.
Following the Interim Report of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission in August 2009, the Australian Government supported the Commission’s recommendation to implement a national warning system based on the location, in addition to the billing address, of a mobile phone.
To achieve this, the Commonwealth provided $1.35 million to the Victorian Government to investigate the capability on behalf of all States and Territories.
This was part of the more than $26 million that has been provided by the Australian Government to establish a national telephone-based emergency warning capability, including $15 million for ‘Emergency Alert’.
Since ‘Emergency Alert’ became operational in December last year it has been used 56 times and has issued in excess of 500,000 messages.
The system has been used in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland for flood, tsunami, bushfire, chemical incidents and even a missing child.
The feasibility study into location based warnings conducted by Victoria earlier this year concluded that it is possible to implement these enhancements across all Australian mobile networks.
The Victorian Government will now commence and lead negotiations with each of the mobile phone carriers, the outcome of which will be considered by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
The implementation of these important technological enhancements will represent a significant step forward in our ability to prepare for and respond to significant national disasters and emergencies.
Funding for this announcement will be fully offset over the forward estimates, consistent with our commitment to return the Budget to surplus in 2013, three years ahead of schedule.
14 SEPTEMBER 2010
PRESS OFFICE (02) 6277 7744
ATTORNEY-GENERAL’S OFFICE (02) 6277 7300