Section: Simon Corbell, MLA | Media Releases
The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell, said a report into Emergency Alert telephone warnings distributed during the recent Mitchell chemical fire highlights the limitations of the system.
"The national Emergency Alert telephone warnings system was used by the ACT to issue to warnings during the Mitchell chemical fire on 16 September. The report, which I have released today, has found there are some limitations when using Emergency Alert," Mr Corbell said.
"The first message at 1:38am was targeted to Mitchell to advise of fire and subsequent implementation of an exclusion zone around the suburb. The second message at 3:19am was intended to be sent to people within a 10 kilometre zone of the fire identified as within a shelter zone.
"Unfortunately, the second Emergency Alert message did not reach a number of people within the intended area. This is because it would have taken six to seven hours for the system to deliver the message to all phones within the zone.
"The ACT ESA has advised that Emergency Alert will be best used in the future for sending targeted messages to small areas rather than for large scale use as was done on 16 September where time is a critical factor."
Mr Corbell said that he would be writing to the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, to raise the issue of the system's limitations and will also raise the issue at the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management in November.
The report has made five recommendations around additional training, review of procedures including quality assurance processes, better utilisation of system functionalities within limitations and provide written advice to the system administrators and national governance bodies about the ACT experience with recommended enhancements.
"The report reinforces that Emergency Alert is just one of many options available to emergency controllers to issue community warnings and is not always suitable for use in all circumstances. The more traditional methods, through local media outlets and the ESA website, and the newly utilised ESA Twitter account, proved extremely successful during the Mitchell chemical fire.
"The ESA issued 37 alerts and updates via ESA website and through local media outlets between Friday 16 September and Sunday 18 September on the fire. During this time the website recorded 64,963 visits with a total of 127, 285 page views. The ESA also posted 107 tweets on the ESA Twitter account @ACT_ESA and has gone from having 15 followers to over 1900.
"I encourage people to use these sources for keeping up to date during emergencies in the future, whether it is a day to day emergency incident or a major emergency situation."