5.15 Community Awareness Information and Warnings

It is important to ensure that public information and warnings are maintained at an optimum level for specific circumstances where community action is necessary, primarily to protect lives, and also for the protection of property and the environment.

The Control Agency has the responsibility to issue warnings to potentially affected communities and other agencies. Warnings and the release of other public information should be authorised by the Incident Controller prior to dissemination. Where an extreme or imminent threat to life exists, and authorisation from the Incident Controller is not practical in the circumstances, warnings may be issued by any response agency personnel.

Any information released by Colac Otway Shire Council during the response phase is the responsibility of the Control Agency in conjunction with the MERC. Any information released by Council must be approved by the MERO (General Information) or the Chief Executive Officer / Senior Management (Policy/Financial/Political matters). Assistance for preparing and disseminating information will be provided by Council’s Media & Public Relations Officer in the MECC.

Council’s website and social media tools will play a critical role in communicating with the broader community. In the event of an emergency, the Council website, www.colacotway.vic.gov.au and Facebook page may be used to communicate information on the following Council services:

  • Current Event Information.
  • Public Health.
  • Emergency Management Planning.
  • Neighbourhood Safer Places Plan.
  • Fire Prevention.

5.15.1 Community Information

The provision of information to the broader community, including those attending an ERC, is vitally important to help them understand what is happening, and to assist them to make informed decisions during the crisis.

Typically, the type of information provided relates to identifying the signs of and coping with, stress, health matters, where and how to access financial assistance, where to access general emotional/psychosocial support and other information relating to the specifics of the emergency.

5.15.2 Emergency Warning Systems

Emergency warning systems aim to warn individuals and communities in the event of a major emergency. However, individuals and communities need to be mindful that they should still prepare themselves in case of an emergency.

The Control Agency has the responsibility for issuing warnings to potentially affected communities, and other agencies. Where this is not practical, the Incident Controller must notify the Emergency Response Coordinator, who in turn will facilitate the issue of warnings.

Once a decision has been made to issue an alert message, the emergency services organisations will determine which method to use (i.e. television, radio or internet) and determine whether a telephone alert needs to be issued.

5.15.3 Emergency Alert

Emergency Alert is the national telephone warning system. It is one of a number of alternative methods emergency service organisations such as police, fire and state emergency services, can use to warn a community of likely or actual emergencies.

Emergency Alert is not used in all circumstances. Whether an emergency services organisation decides to issue telephone warnings through Emergency Alert will depend on the nature of the incident. The warning system sends voice messages to landline telephones and text messages to mobile telephones within a specific area defined by the emergency service organisation issuing the warning message, about likely or actual emergencies such as fire, flood, or extreme weather events.

Agencies have been instructed in the use of Emergency Alert and the Incident Controller has access to the website to enable the distribution of warnings.

5.15.4 Standard Emergency Warning Signal

The Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) is an electronic warning signal, to be used in assisting the delivery of public warnings and messages for major emergencies. It is designed to:

  • Alert listeners/viewers of radio/television that an official emergency announcement is about to be made concerning an actual or potential emergency which has the potential to affect them.
  • Alert the community at large, via a public address system, that an important official emergency announcement is about to be broadcast.

The use of SEWS must be authorised by the Incident Controller.

The guidelines for the use of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal are in Part 8 Appendix 14 of the EMMV.

5.15.5 Community Alert Sirens

Community alert sirens are fixed sirens, including community sirens and CFA sirens, used to alert a community of an emergency that may directly affect that community. All fixed CFA sirens have two purposes, each indicated by the duration of the siren sounding:

  • Alerting fire brigade members to attend emergency calls (duration no longer than 90 seconds); and
  • Alerting communities to seek information about a threat (duration at least five minutes).

The community alert siren ‘message’ is for community members to seek information from other sources about the threat. The guidelines for the use of community alert sirens are detailed in Policy and Guidelines, Use of Sirens for Brigade and Community Alerting – referenced in Part 8 Appendix 10 of the EMMV. Additional information about community Alert Sirens can be found at Emergency Management Victoria

A list of all established community alert sirens is provided in Appendix 15 – Community Alert Sirens

5.15.6 Information Resources

The following functions are an essential part of these arrangements and should be utilised if and when required:

  • Council’s Media & Public Relations Officer in the MECC; and
  • Police Media Liaison.

If an emergency requires concurrent media response through radio, television and newspaper outlets, the Police Media Liaison Section may be contacted through the MERC.

5.15.7 CALD communities

Special consideration needs to be given to warning disabled and non-English speaking groups. In the case where information and/or communication is required with persons unable to speak English, an interpreter service such as the Telephone Interpreter Service may be able to assist.

5.14 Communications

5.16 Evacuation