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Tuesday, 03 March 2009 02:15

Mobile networks mobilised, 3 million Victorians get SMS fire warning

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My son came running into my office yesterday saying that the police had sent him an SMS text message. I told him not to worry because I got one too. In fact 3 million mobile phone owners across the state of Victoria got a message warning them of impending danger.

{loadposition stan}Unless you've been living under a rock, you would know that Victoria is still in the grips of the worst bush fire disaster in Australia's history.

More than 200 people have died in tragic circumstances and thousands of homes have been lost. Today, with forecast high temperatures and high winds already howling across the state, authorities have warned that this could be a particularly nasty day on the fire fronts.

To date, warnings have been issued on radio and TV. However, for the first time, the state Government through the Victorian police force has mobilised the major mobile phone networks in the first ever initiative to reach the wider population with an emergency message.

The message read: "Msg from Vic Police Extreme weather in Vic expected Mon night & Tues High fire risk Listen to local ABC Radio for emergency updates Do not reply to this"

While the SMS messaging system has obviously been very effective in raising public awareness of the danger, its technology limitations were exposed by the fact that the messages were received at widely varying times - some many hours apart.

Unfortunately, the combined SMS networks are currently only capable of sending a few hundred thousand messages an hour. However, there is theoretically no reason that this could not be changed in future as the SMS service uses such a miniscule portion of the mobile networks' bandwidth.

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Stan Beer

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 35 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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