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Insufficient emergency telecommunications technology could be a cause of lives lost on Black Saturday

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Victorian police have recently revealed that their inability to use emergency telecommunications technology in the areas worst affected by the infamous Victorian bushfires of 2009, may reoccur again if such a bushfire were to be repeated.

173 people were killed during the devastating bushfires that occured on Feburary 7, 2009, a day now known as 'Black Saturday'. The Royal Commission into these fires recently heard that the state faced Black Saturday with “unrealistic optimism”, due to insufficient telecommunications technology available to emergency services.

This rather sombre assessment is also supported by a leading vendor of disaster and recovery communications technology - Adtec Communications. Adtec Communications believes that so many people died on Black Saturday not only because of the intense and fast moving fires, but also because of the use of “inappropriate technology by emergency services and the fact that the technology was overwhelmed”.

Jeremy Sharp, Managing Director of Adtec Communications, which supplies its ALERTS mission-critical emergency communications software to the likes of SES Victoria, South Australian Country Fire Service and Metropolitan Fire Service, and the Australian Federal Police, believes that 173 people are dead not only because of the bushfire but also due to the fact that the communications technology used by the emergency personnel was unsuitable, swamped and therefore rendered ineffective.

“The 000 system was also totally overwhelmed. This was mainly caused by callers simply seeking information and updates," said Mr. Sharp. "A series of voice messages relayed to resident's phones would have negated the necessity for them to ring 000 or at least, greatly reduced the number of inbound calls,” he adds.

Mr. Sharp points out that, “a greater tragedy is that a number of emergency service operators were using unsuitable technology, when more appropriate technology that has already been tried and tested is available.”

An excuse given for the lack of warnings was that authorities believed it would lead to mass panic and clogged roads. Mr. Sharp however believes that a series of composed, properly escalated and targeted warnings could have been given with the use of appropriate emergency telecommunications technology, which would have resulted in relatively controlled and orderly evacuations.

“Australia is a vast country and we do have a disproportionate number of natural disasters. To ensure that we can overcome them with minimum loss our emergency services operators  need to be equipped with the most appropriate combination of robust communication technology,” concludes Mr.Sharp.

This article was provided by The Word Press .

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