Bushfire SMS warning system launched

From ninemsn.com news.

A national telephone warning system that can send text messages to alert people to a bushfire emergency has been launched.

Final testing was completed last week, allowing the system to be officially ready for use as of Wednesday morning.

The system can send thousands of text and voice messages a minute to residents in the fire's path.

But warnings can only be sent to landlines and mobile phones based on billing addresses.

Authorities are hoping to launch the second stage of the system next year where all mobile phones in an area under threat can receive warnings, allowing visitors to be notified.

Victorian Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron says the system, called Emergency Alert, is ready after more than 50,000 text and voice messages were sent during the public trial.

"Emergency Alert will provide another useful tool for emergency services to issue warnings but it is crucial that communities do not rely on receiving a telephone warning and have an emergency plan," he said in a statement.

The $15 million system was funded by the federal government.

NSW Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan says the system is only one tool that firefighters have at their disposal.

"This is part of a suite of warning tools," he told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday.

"It doesn't replace the other methods of warning - things like the radio, doorknocking and people looking for information on the internet.

"Mobile phone towers can burn down, there can be black spots. People need to continue to listen to radio stations and take the advice from emergency services."

Mr Whan says text messages will not be sent to people who are in danger areas where they do not live.

"Stage two of the system will deal with those people and we'd hope to have that available next calendar year," he said.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said it was important to remain vigilant during summer, especially on days of heightened fire danger.

"Some fires start and start and progress and burn too quickly for warnings so people should not be waiting for a warning," he said.

"That's why we broadcast messages well ahead of a fire weather day and during the day, because people need to be alert."

via Bushfire SMS warning system launched.

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