App makes emergency information more accessible

People who are deaf or hard of hearing now have another tool to access emergency information through the free app for smartphones, OpenAccess Alerts.

The app, developed by the Conexu Foundation, shares text-based public information to keep communities informed with the latest traffic, weather and public transport updates. Now, the app will be bolstered through the addition of emergency information.

As part of Fire Action Week 2014, Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley announced that Emergency Management Victoria and Conexu were teaming up to see Victorian emergency alerts and warnings shared through the app.

“We are pleased to be able to support Conexu by linking our emergency services channels to the OpenAccess Alerts app so that emergency information and warnings can be made more accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing,” Mr Lapsley said.

“The OpenAccess Alerts app is another tool in an extensive emergency information and warnings system and will support existing channels accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing such as the FireReady app and Victorian Bushfire Information Line, available via the National Relay Service.

“It’s also a timely reminder to Victorians as we approach another summer season to never rely on one source for emergency information – don’t wait to receive a warning on your phone before you act.”

Conexu Chief Executive Officer Sandy Gilliland said the app was developed as people who are deaf and hard of hearing often miss out on messages announced through audio channels such as radio, television or loudspeaker, like train platform delays.

“It is important for everyone in our communities to have equal access to information – in times of emergency these updates can be lifesaving,” she said.
“It’s fantastic to have the support of Emergency Management Victoria for this app. The emergency services of Victoria are the first information provider to include their content into the app and we are confident that others will follow their lead and further increase access for our communities.

VicDeaf, the state’s primary advice and support organisation for deaf and hard of hearing adults, are also working with the community to raise awareness of these accessible options.

OpenAccess Alerts identifies time and geographic location so that users can be informed at anytime, anywhere. When an alert is available in your location, your phone will vibrate to notify you. The app is free to download on both iOS and Android devices.

For other sources of emergency information, tune in to ABC local radio, commercial and designated community radio stations or Sky News TV. You can also phone the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667 – callers who are deaf, hard of hearing can contact VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.

Visit emergency.vic.gov.au, download the FireReady App and use CFA’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.

For more information about the app visit, http://conexu.com.au/services-projects/openaccess-alerts