Texts could be used in crisis-warning system

8 Jul 2010

Mobile-phone text messages could be used in early warning systems to provide advance notice to the public and emergency services of natural disasters, extreme weather events or unpredictable catastrophes, a new Oireachtas report has found.

The report from the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, which was published yesterday, concluded that such a system would enhance the capacity of the public to act in the case of an emergency.

“Recent unexpected events like the flooding crises have stressed the need for the State to ensure that modern technology is fully exploited to ensure that citizens and rescue services receive early information in an accessible form,” said report author and committee member Simon Coveney TD.

“Unfortunately, we have all seen how extreme weather conditions and unpredictable catastrophes have caused significant and lasting damage to communities and property. While the response of emergency services to the recent flooding in many parts of Ireland was effective, and in some cases heroic, the inability to accurately and effectively warn the public of predictable damage was a major failing.

“Clearly, the earlier people get a definitive warning of a potential crisis, the better the chance to minimise the damage.”

“With mobile-phone ownership in Ireland virtually at universal level, a text-message alert system to notify people of emergency situations has the capacity to communicate vital information to large numbers of people in a quick and accessible format,” Coveney said.

“Any such process would also help to complement traditional information channel such as TV, radio and press. The recent adverse weather events have demonstrated the importance of preparation when dealing with emergencies and the need for timely, accurate and consistent information.”

Coveney said while the rollout of such a system would face obstacles, the benefits of this technology would offer “exciting” potential to improve communication channels between emergency response co-ordinators and the public.

The committee’s report will be sent to the Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan TD and to the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP), which provides a key support role to the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning. The OEP is charged with refining the arrangements to improve the emergency planning process.

Article courtesy of Businessandleadership.com