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Monday, March 2, 2009

Opinion: An Informed Society.

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Today the Victorian Police have sent the following text message to Victorian mobile phones:

“Msg from Vic Police:Extreme weather in Vic expected Mon night & Tues.High wind & fire risk.Listen to local ABC Radio for emergency updates.Do not reply to this”

This is an excellent warning system that has been brought into action after Victoria’s Black Saturday fires last January, so what else could a system like this be extended to? A similar system could be developed to send an emergency text message to all in the vicinity of an armed robber, or the utilities (power, eater etc.) could warn users of impending service cuts and/or advise them when the service will be resumed by the use of a simple text message (See “Water Main Burst”). Even evacuation advice for a large department store could be issued via customers’ mobile phones and strong wind warnings could be issued to campers in tree-heavy areas.

Perhaps the government could subsidise a worthy system like this? Text messages are a more immediate and easily received format for emergency information than an announcement over a speaker (which could be inaudible or cause panic) or on the internet, which people may not see/hear. This could help save lives (in worst case scenario) and avoid confusion and panic in the public.

Many households now have at least one mobile phone within, and people could easily pass on the message to neighbours or those around them who don’t have a mobile themselves. This is an excellent move by Victoria Police and a concept that could be applied with great effect to a wide range of emergency situations.

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