Craig Butt August 15, 2012
A fireman in the ruins of a house destroyed int he Black Saturday bushfires.
More than four in ten Victorians will be unable to receive new targeted bushfire alerts this summer because only one carrier can deliver the text messages, it has been revealed.
Victoria's Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley told ABC 774 the new emergency warning system, to be introduced this December and which sends out warnings to mobile users based on their location rather than their billing address, will only work on the Telstra network.
He said Telstra was the mobile provider for 58 per cent of Victorians.
"Telstra phones will be location-based, so (the warnings) will not be dominated by where your bill goes but where you are. The towers will be able to identify where you are and send a message to your phone," he said.
This means someone who is visiting an area threatened by bushfires will also receive emergency alerts.
But Mr Lapsley said Optus and Vodafone did not have the software to support that system.
He said work was being done to get the carriers on board.
"Negotiations are continuing... the office of the Emergency Services Commissioner is pursuing that."
An Optus spokeswoman confirmed talks were continuing and said ‘‘considerable progress’’ was being made on the technical and legal issues surrounding the emergency alerts system.
‘‘Optus is very mindful of our obligations to the community and we have given a commitment to the Victorian government that we will make every effort in good faith to deliver a solution,’’ she said.
Until the location-based service is in place, Optus will use its existing systems to send out text message emergency alerts to its customers in areas under threat.
Improving early warning systems was a key recommendation of the Bushfires Royal Commission into the 2009 Black Saturday disaster.
A spokesman for Vodafone said he was surprised by Mr Lapsley’s comments.
"They do not reflect the very open and collaborative relationship that we have developed with the Victorian state government," he said.
Vodafone also provides a warning system for people disaster zones, but it is based on address rather than position.
The spokesman said Vodafone had been in talks with the state government for more than a year to introduce an address-based service and was confident an agreement would be reached soon, although he conceded Vodafone’s system was likely to be introduced after Telstra’s.