Emergency SMS used to fight against bushfires this summer

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Technology devices and social media are making instant communication a reality. But did you know that SMS, alongside social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, is the latest channel being used to prevent summer bushfires?

A new bushfire alert system called ‘Bushfire Connect’ aims to combine different ways of communication, including social media and SMS, with official data in order to provide people local and detailed information about summer bushfires.

Every communication system will have its role: SMS alerts to a specific hotline, direct messages to the service’s social media Facebook page, or tweets hash tagged with the word #bushfireconnect.

A combination of methods

The combination of all these communication formats with official resources is designed to provide well-sourced information to their database regarding summer fires.

“It was shocking to know how little people knew at the critical point in time when they needed information,” commented Keren Flavell, co- founder of the system. Flavell added that the ability of social media to spread information had spurred the project.

On top of this, the Bushfire Connect website allows the general public to see wider reports or to sign up to receive more localised information – via SMS – which includes data from both authorities and from locals raising the alarm.

The website also includes incidents on the map and listed in chronological order. Those who want to know even more could find official mainstream news feeds on the site as well.

The system is inspired by the tragedy of Black Saturday, and it was successfully tested in Healesville earlier this year. Volunteers are invited to join the Bushfire Connect team and help communities share time critical information about bushfires.

Sending a quick and direct SMS is certainly one of the best ways to alert others about natural disasters.