Effective emergency warnings

Emergency Management Australia has asked the Victorian Department of Justice to review Australia’s national warning system, to come up with best practice.


The review is underway and should be finished by the end of the year.

Emergency warnings are now common-place in Australia and the community has come to expect them, and agencies which do not provide warnings are quickly the subject of stringent review, including and up to Royal Commissions. The next step is to ensure the warnings are effective.

In my experience, and based on research from my favorite authors, Miletti and Sorenson, Handmer, McClennan and Paton, this would be a template for an effective warning.

We will test this against some of the warnings issued over the next few months.

The event

  • What’s happening?
  • What’s going to happen?
  • How serious is this?
  • What’s it mean for me?
  • When is it happening?
  • What should I do?
  • Where can I get more information?
  • How can I help my community?

The delivery

  • Immediately
  • Repeatedly
  • Updated
  • By a strong trusted local voice
  • With verification
  • Simultaneously on a variety of platforms several of which should be available to the recipient

The basis

  •  Be based on research
  • The community must know what to do when it hears a warning
  • Be part of our community culture
  • Be comprehensive
  • Be reliable
  • Be consistent
  • Be integrated with all warning platforms and options.
  • Be reviewed, assessed and constantly improved.


How do people want their emergency advice?

There is a great deal of focus at present on providing the right advice to the community before, during and after emergencies – in the right way, at the right time and in language and format people can understand, even in the face of a calamity.

But are we considering the community needs, or the emergency agency needs?

Research in Far North Queensland by Sandy Astills [astills@optusnet.com.au] suggests sometimes it will be useful to look more carefully at how emergency agencies and disseminators are delivering information.

The Australian Journal of Emergency Management contained an article https://ajem.infoservices.com.au/items/AJEM-29-03-09 on these dilemma’s by Sandy, and she then spoke to ABC Local Radio Far North Qld broadcaster Richard Dinnen, on July 23, 2014.