October 5th 2009
Residents urged to sign up for emergency alerts
Townsville and Magnetic Island residents are being offered an extra layer of protection for the coming cyclone season, with the opportunity to sign up for a new emergency alert system.
Townsville City Council is the first local government area in Australia to sign up to the Early Warning Network, which will allow the Local Disaster Management Group to send out alerts to people in the direct path of a severe weather event.
Mayor and Local Disaster Management Group chair, Cr Les Tyrell, said flyers would be sent out this week to all residents to invite them to opt into the free service through council’s website at www.townsville.qld.gov.au or by calling the Customer Service Centre on 4727 9000.
“Because of privacy laws, we’re unable to send out warnings unless people have asked to have their details registered,” Cr Tyrell said.
“Under this system, you simply need to decide how you wish to be reached, whether it be through text messages on mobiles, recorded messages on landline phones, or email. You can choose one option or the whole lot.”
Cr Tyrell said residents would only receive emergency warnings if they lived in a location where they faced a direct and imminent threat of a natural disaster such as a cyclone, hailstorms or bushfires.
“We won’t be issuing an alert every time a cyclone is hovering off the Queensland coast, but if the information we receive indicates a particular area of the city is likely to be affected, then we’ll issue advice on actions people should consider,” Cr Tyrell said.
“This may include information about evacuations.”
Community Safety and Health Committee chair, Dale Last, said the council had decided to use the Early Warning Network because talks between state and federal governments had yet to produce a national warning system.
“There’s no point waiting around until a national system is developed, as it could be years away,” Cr Last said.
“The Victorian bushfires and other disasters in recent years have only served to emphasise the need for such a system, and given there’s already a private sector service available, we think it’s in the interests of the community to use it.
“Getting an immediate message out to the community can be difficult, particularly during the night, however this system will give us a better chance of doing exactly that.”
Early Warning Network managing director Kerry Plowright said the system had been operating since 2007 and was the world’s only location-based early warning service for severe weather.
“Past experience tells us that one of the real benefits of the system is that when people receive alerts, they not only take action, they also ring friends and family and warn them as well as other people around them,” Mr Plowright said.
“Essentially, our service works by monitoring and tracking potentially dangerous weather systems.
“We use a number of resources to forecast, analyse and monitor natural disaster risks, including the Bureau of Meteorology, Weatherzone, meteorological discussion boards, the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and many more.”
To maintain privacy for residents, registration details will not be shared by council or the Early Warning Network with any other party.
In the event of a complete power and internet outage in the city, messages can be sent from an alternative location.
Council has secured free subscription to the service, and standard call charges will only apply to council when messages are sent.
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