Federal Government to upgrade Emergency Alert service

Disaster alert service to send warnings to mobile handsets based on location and across all mobile networks

The Federal Government is to upgrade the Emergency Alert warning system, pushing the service, which delivers SMS notifications about natural disasters out to mobile handsets, to all Australian mobile networks.

The upgrade will mean that warnings of disasters across Australia will be sent to mobile users based on their location rather than their billing address; a factor that could be crucial in saving the lives of those in a disaster-prone region.

The upgrade follows recommendations from the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission of August 2009 and the first phase of the project was rolled out at the end of last year.

Prior to the announcement, a feasibility study was conducted that indicated location based warnings are possible to implement across all Australian mobile phone networks, and the Victorian government is set to lead talks with each of these carriers.

The Emergency Alert system is part of more than $26 million of funding provided by the Federal Government to establish a telephone-based emergency system.

According to the Federal Government the implementation of the technological enhancements to the Emergency Alert system represented a “significant step forward” in its ability to prepare for and respond to significant national disasters and emergencies.

Emergency Alert has so far been used 56 times across New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, and has sent out some 500,000 messages.

In January, Victoria’s troubled bushfire alert system was put to the test as the state braced for catastrophic fire conditions and soaring 40 degree temperatures.

In September last year Telstra was awarded the contract to build a national telephony-based emergency warning system in the event of a life-threatening natural disaster.

At the time Victoria’s Police and Emergency Services Minister, Bob Cameron, said that Telstra would build and deliver the fixed and mobile phone National Emergency Warning System (NEWS) by the end of October and testing will commence in November.

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