Cellphone alert project welcomed

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A Civil Defence cellphone alerting system would be a useful way to warn people of impending danger, Waitaki District Council emergency services manager Chris Raine says.

The project is only a possibility at this stage, with businesses and the Government working out the best way to fund the system.

“I think it will be a fantastic addition to help alert people of civil defence emergencies if they can figure out the right network to use and how to get information to customers quickly,” Mr Raine said.

“It’s only at the business stage so far, but if they sort it all out, then I’d get in behind it.”

While only a select few used Lured, an app which provides alerts, Mr Raine said it was not available to the public.

“They don’t have use of this, so making this new one would be a great way for the majority of the country to keep aware of emergencies.”

Civil Defence Minister Nikki Kaye said new operating spending of $250,000 in 2014/15 would allow the development of a business case to help provide a telecommunications-based public alerting system to warn people of impending emergencies.

“This project is about reaching large numbers of people quickly, through cellphone alerts, to save lives in civil defence emergencies. By using a separate cellphone channel, the technology could reach specific geographical areas without causing communications congestion,” Ms Kaye said.

“Time can be crucial in some major emergencies. For example, following an earthquake that presented an immediate tsunami threat, a cellphone alerting system could be used to warn quickly those in the most dangerous zones.

“New Zealand doesn’t have a standard public alerting system that has coverage right across the country. It makes sense to look at taking advantage of advances in technologies to increase our public alerting coverage and preparedness for natural disasters,” Ms Kaye said.

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY