Australians in disaster zones will receive instant phone warnings from a new National Messaging System (NMS).
Murray Watt, Minister for Emergency Management, and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced the rollout of the NMS on Tuesday, saying it could save lives, reports Xinhua news agency.
The new system will allow state and territory governments to instantly send emergency warning notifications to mobile phones in a defined area in multiple languages.
It will replace the current SMS-based system, which was often overwhelmed during emergencies such as bushfires, delaying messages.
“Drawing on technology currently used overseas, the speed and effectiveness of the NMS will substantially improve Australia’s ability to send prioritized warnings from trusted sources, to prevent the loss of life, injury, damage to property, and mitigate the spread of misinformation during disasters,” the Ministers said in a statement.
“Being able to communicate effectively — from communities receiving emergency messages as quickly as possible to emergency service operators responding to an event — is critical in ensuring that there is minimal disruption to communities and individuals.”
The landmark royal commission into Australia’s natural disaster responses, which was held in the wake of the devastating 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, warned that safety messaging around disasters needed to be improved.
It found that the inconsistent approach of each state and territory having its own messaging warning system led to the public questioning the reliability of messages.
The new system will be designed and tested over the next 18 months before being implemented nationwide in time for the 2024-25 bushfire season.