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Media releases

Posted on: 4 February, 2014

Mapping for Emergency Alert system to be improved

Mayor Jenny Whitney said Council is working with Geographical Information System (GIS) specialists and the Queensland Government to improve the mapping which drives the State Government Emergency Alert system for the Whitsunday region.

“The Emergency Alert system is a free service provided by State Government to warn people via
SMS and home phone of impending threats to the community,” Mayor Whitney said.

“Two emergency alerts were issued on Thursday night during Cyclone Dylan to warn residents in low-lying coastal areas of potential storm surge tide inundation.

“The emergency alert system is never going to be a faultless system, but we are working to create a more detailed mapping system to only alert people who are in or close to low-lying areas.

“At the moment, the alert is issued to home phones in the affected areas and mobile phones who have billing addresses in the affected areas or whose mobile phone has most recently connected to a mobile phone tower that was in or around the affected area.

“This may have resulted in some people who were high and dry receiving SMS alerts who did not need to worry about storm tide surge inundation.

“We apologise if this inconvenienced anyone as we understand one of the alerts went out quite
late at night, but it is better to be prepared and have all the information, rather than be in the dark about an impending emergency.

“After 10pm the Whitsunday Disaster Coordination Centre received new advice that the storm
surge risk to our region had significantly increased due to updated forecast track maps, cyclone
intensification, as well as the forecast cyclone crossing the coast closer to the highest tide of the
year.

“We were preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

“The Whitsunday region dodged a bullet with Cyclone Dylan, had the cyclone crossed the coast
later in the morning, as originally predicted, there would have much more damage and inundation due to storm surge.

“The technology which uses the mobile phone tower connections to reach people in the region is a new and evolving system, with improvements being made to the system all the time.

“We are looking to improve the mapping service in the future so that only those directly threatened by storm surge inundation will receive the Emergency alert.

“Hopefully this will reduce the nuisance calls and text messages people will receive during a
disaster event, which can potentially alarm people who are not in harms way.

“The phone and text messages are very limited in the number of characters which can be used in the messages, so there is always referral to our website and Facebook page for further detailed information.

“The Emergency Alert system was only one way in which the Whitsunday Disaster Coordination
Centre was informing the community of the impending threats; police officers, SES and Rural Fire volunteers were also door-knocking houses in potential storm surge threat zones.

“The local media through radio, television and online local newspapers was also vital in distributing these message and we thank them for their assistance over the course of the event,” she said.

The Whitsunday Disaster Management Group is also urging residents in coastal areas to
familiarise themselves with the storm tide inundation mapping to identify the relevant evacuation
zone for their properties.

The zones shown in the Emergency Action Guide (EAG) are an indication only for storm tides.

To view full-scale mapping, residents are urged to visit Council’s Customer Service Centres and
Libraries across the region or visit Council’s website www.whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au under the
‘Disaster’ tab.

To keep up to date with information relating to current disaster events, residents are encouraged to ‘Like’ the Whitsunday Disaster and Emergency Information Facebook page, which will provide a direct link to information from the Whitsunday Disaster Management Group.

The Whitsunday Disaster Management Group monitors all cyclone and storm activity throughout
the season and through Council, will provide up to date information to media outlets and the
community.

Ends

For media enquiries, contact:
Kate Lennox, Communications Manager
Phone: 07 4945 0614, 0427 458 369 or Email: kate.lennox@whitsundayrc.qld.gov.au

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