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BETTER, FASTER, MORE SPECIFIC WARNINGS TO SAVE LIVES
Source: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au
Source Date: Friday, August 27, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government, ICT for MDGs
Created: Aug 30, 2010

Mobile telephones will be harnessed as early warning devices based on their location, as Victoria stands ready to again lead the nation, committing to the next phase of the national telephone emergency warning system.

Police and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron announced Victoria had done the hard work to determine that the next step of using Emergency Alert to send messages to mobile phones based on their geographic location – not just billing address – was feasible.

“The Brumby Labor Government’s strong economic management means that our State Budget has the capacity to fund new measures as we undertake fundamental reforms to make our State as fire-safe and as fire-ready as possible,” Mr Cameron said.

“We want to get more timely and more accurate warnings to people potentially threatened by bushfires, so we can save more lives. Sending warnings to individuals’ mobile phones, based on their location, will make our State and our people safer.

“Victoria, through the Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner (OESC), has driven this project right from the beginning, putting it on the national agenda and making sure it could work and was delivered for the last bushfire season.

“Now is the time for interstate governments and the Federal Government to again come together to ensure this vital warning service can take the next step and enhance this National Emergency Warning System and in turn help protect people’s lives.”

Mr Cameron said the Brumby Labor Government would commit to implementing the next phase of the warning system but needed co-operation and funding from the Federal Government and other states to start taking action now.

“If we get the go ahead from the Federal Government and other states very soon, we could have this location based capability available during the next fire season,” Mr Cameron said.

“This new warning system has already proven very useful since its introduction last year, being used 38 times across the country, sending over 355,000 messages to residents across Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.

“We are very keen to see the Federal Government and governments of other states to continue their input into developing this successful system and follow the lead of Victoria in putting up funding to ensure we can get to the next level of safety with warnings as soon as possible.”

Mr Cameron said the Brumby Labor Government’s response to the findings of the Bushfires Royal Commission also included $7.1 million to further boost CFA Advanced Early Warning Systems and for investigation and installation of warning sirens.

“Along with ongoing awareness and education campaigns it’s vital we continue enhancing our methods of getting timely and accurate warnings on emergency situations out to communities, and our Government is committed to delivering on the Commission’s recommendations,” he said.

Mr Cameron said the Brumby Labor Government’s commitment to implement location-based mobile phone warnings came on top of the $21.5 million the Government is investing in FireWeb and Phoenix RapidFire – the Australian-first fire prediction and early warning system that will deliver specific and detailed information on the spread of fires.

The new fully-computerised, digital mapping system which will provide up to six hours warning of the direction, speed and intensity of a fire within minutes – instead of hours – of it being discovered.

“We want to put as much high quality, accurate and timely information as possible in the hands of individuals, so they can make informed decisions on how they respond to the threat of bushfires,” Mr Cameron said.

“One of the key messages from the Royal Commission was that early warning of bushfires plays an extremely important role in making our community safer.”

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings said the new technology integrated critical fire, Bureau of Meteorology weather data, topographical information and on ground fuel data and mapped it immediately in digital format for use by fire authorities to predict the path and intensity of fires.

Information on FireWeb will immediately be made available to fire authorities to inform public warnings through One Source One Message, DSE and CFA websites and delivered to media outlets that have a Memorandum of Understanding to provide emergency warnings.

“This system can pinpoint the location of the start of a fire to within 20 metres and has the capacity to calculate the potential spread of fire across the landscape under different weather, fuel load and fire suppression scenarios,” Mr Jennings said.

“Previously, predictions about fire behaviour had to be drawn by hand on paper and could not easily be entered into our fire mapping system. We believe the new FireWeb system will provide exactly the type of early warning information the Royal Commission report said would help make Victoria safer.”

A further $13.7 million will be invested in community information and education programs and enhanced fire safety messages, including new signage.

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