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Emergency Alert Australia is an emergency communications scheme set up by the Australian Commonwealth Government in response to the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009, utilizing telecommunications systems as another form of alert for citizens.
The system sends both SMS messages and pre-recorded sound messages with information regarding the alert which can be statewide, or reduced to a small location.
The landline telephone message starts off with the Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) followed by the words "Emergency! Emergency!" which is then followed by a verbal alert in English regarding the type of threat, the appropriate action and a telephone number or website where more information can be found.
The SMS message is similar to the Landline message but is written in English text rather than a verbal warning. SEWS is not used for this type of message but still contains information about the type of threat, appropriate action and a telephone number or website where more information can be found. The originating number is 0444 444 444 which can only send out messages, it cannot receive messages or calls. This is the same number that is used for the landline message if Caller ID is used on the particular phone.
The Government coordinates the identification of emergency and response. Having developed an appropriate message and area of interest, they then provide a suitable message and area of land within which to send to each mobile phone network operator who then in turn identify all subscribers within that area using the mobile network and then send the message as an SMS using the originating number above. No subscriber information is shared between the operators, and no subscriber information is shared with the Government. See the official EA website FAQ for more detailed information.
This is different from other international solutions such as the US CMAS which uses a Cell Broadcast approach wherein a Government sends each operator an appropriate message and area of interest and a start and stop date/time for the message to remain valid, and then each operator in turn determines which base station to target for the message. Then each of these base stations is loaded with a message that is sent whenever a subscriber wanders into that cell coverage area until such time as the message period ends.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach which have been documented internationally. The UK Government has been trialling both approaches in 2013 prior to finalising a solution.
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