SMS alerts for tsunamis, the Australian experience

Posted on March 1, 2010  /  1 Comments

Early warning does not happen every day. So when hazards occur, it is important that the experience is analyzed so that future responses can be enhanced. Here is a report on how warnings worked (or did not) on the Pacific Coast of Australia in relation to the tsunami generated by the Chilean earthquake of Saturday. It is a pity that the potential of cell broadcasting that can be targeted to low-lying areas that are in danger, without knowing any of the numbers of the mobile phones belonging to the people physically present and without congestion.

The Gold Coast authorities used SMS for 10,000 people. How did they know these were the phones belonging to the people in the high-risk areas? Is it not common that people who are found on beaches, do not necessarily live nearby? So how did they pick the 10000 numbers? And how come they missed the head of the local disaster management group?

“Not everyone keeps their radio on.

“We need a system to make sure the low ground gets priority warning.”

Dr Wilson said a siren system, doorknocking and use of modern media such as Facebook were needed.

Emergency Management Queensland regional director Eddie Bennet said 10,000 text messages were sent to residents in seven suburbs identified as at greatest risk of flooding.

He said a blanket text message to the whole Gold Coast was not deemed as necessary.

The message that was sent directed Lakeview, Boykambil, Woongoolba, Currumbin, Cabbage Tree, Budds Beach and Paradise Point residents to seek further advice.

Mr Bennet said he believed the state’s first formal emergency alert had been successful.

“There was absolutely no confusion. There was a sound reason for this and valid purpose for sending them out.”

Local Disaster Management Group deputy chairman Councillor Ted Shepherd was not aware the texts had been sent and said he believed the level of threat did not warrant the service.

“It attracts too many spectators,” he said.

1 Comment

  1. yeah, you raised very good points.. the best solution is Cell Broadcasting for sure. Can anybody tell me why this cannot be implemented?
    As for SMS messaging, although not perfect, it still helps for sure. I just wonder what criteria they used to pick the 10,000 phone numbers…? i live by the ocean and the best thing i can do is to help myself with one of those SMS to cell phone services you find in the internet. in my opinion, the best are ” title=”USGS”>USGS and SMS Tsunami Warning.