Emergency Alert upgrade improving how Victorians receive emergency information

4 August 2021

Victorians will soon have access to the latest version of the Emergency Alert telephone warning system.  

Emergency Alert is the national telephone warning system used by Victoria’s emergency services to send text messages to mobile phones and pre-recorded voice messages to landlines within a targeted area, with advice about likely or actual emergencies.  

This upgrade will deliver key enhancements to existing alerts such as an increased character count and better location targeting. The upgraded system will also enable future improvements such as the capability to program additional languages and integration with social media and tools like WhatsApp. 

The upgraded warning system will be trialed between Thursday 5 August and Wednesday 11 August 2021.  

Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the improvements came at an important time in the lead up to summer. 

“There are many ways we communicate important information to Victorians during an emergency,” he said. 

“These trials will ensure we are well prepared to keep communities informed and get vital information out as quickly as possible.” 

The trial will occur across 14 Victorian communities, focusing on tourism areas, locations with limited or no mobile phone coverage, highly populated areas, and locations with an increased risk of bushfire. 

The trial alert messages will be clearly labelled with ‘test’. Those in the community who receive a ‘test’ alert message - via SMS or an automated phone call - don’t need to act or respond. 

Minister for Emergency Management and Senator the Hon Bridget McKenzie said planning and communication for early evacuation is key to saving lives. 

“This system is a way for emergency services to warn our community of a pending threat, and we’re pleased that Commonwealth funding is assisting in this risk mitigation which will benefit all Australians,” she said. 

Launch of the upgraded system is currently planned for 1 September 2021. 

Test alerts will be sent to residents and travelers in Lorne, Deans Marsh, Anglesea, Kennett River, Flemington, Stonyford, Ouyen, Halls Gap, Ballarat, Venus Bay, Macedon, Licola, Bright and Wilsons Promontory National Park. 

Acting Minister for Police and Emergency Services Danny Pearson said the Emergency Alert system is a critical tool in communicating with the community during emergencies, helping Victorians to make informed decisions and keep their families safe. 

“Victorians deserve the best possible Emergency Alert system and I’m proud to say that’s what we’re delivering,” he said. 

Emergency Management Australia Director General Joe Buffone said the community-based trials will help bolster Australia’s emergency response capabilities. 

“The Emergency Alert system was originally implemented in response to the 2009 summer bushfires and, continues to play a vital role in keeping Australian communities safe,” he said.