Better communications to keep communities safer in disasters

Australia will be better prepared to respond to future natural disasters thanks to an upgrade to emergency warnings and alerts, as well as improved communication for first responders, that will be rolled out through Albanese Government’s upcoming Federal Budget.


The Government is rolling out a new cell broadcast National Messaging System (NMS) which will use state-of-the-art technology to significantly enhance how the Commonwealth delivers emergency messages.


It will also improve how States and Territories issue alerts and warnings to mobile phones and devices during a crisis or emergency event, in near real time.


Drawing on technology currently used overseas, the speed and effectiveness of the NMS will substantially improve Australia’s ability to send prioritised warnings from trusted sources, to prevent the loss of life, injury, damage to property, and mitigate the spread of misinformation during disasters.


This new technology will also allow Governments to send messages in English and a second language, in order to provide accurate, official information to multicultural communities, helping them to understand the risks and make appropriate decisions about their personal safety.


The Albanese Government has also committed $10.1 million to establish a central Taskforce to drive the delivery of a Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) capability. 


A PSMB capability would deliver a mobile broadband service that provides Public Safety Agencies and first responders with fast and secure voice, video and data communications.


Near instant access to data, images and information in critical situations will be enabled along with real time, data-rich analytics, situational awareness and cross-border communications between, for example, ground crews, aerial assets and incident control centres.


This will support the coordination of responses across organisational and geographic boundaries, and enhance Australia’s ability to manage emergencies, hazards and threats.

Establishing a Taskforce is a critical step in advancing the national PSMB program following the independent review of the PSMB in 2022.


The PSMB was a key recommendation of the 2020 Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.


The Taskforce will take forward the recommendations of the review and drive the delivery of this important capability, which will enable the right help, at the right place, at the right time.


Both measures will be jointly developed and implemented by the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland and the Minister for Emergency Management, Murray Watt.


Minister Rowland said the upgrades would have widespread benefits for Australians.


“The first priority of any government is to keep Australians safe”, Minister Rowland said.


“Our investments in emergency and public safety communications will help save lives, reduce the impact on communities, and ensure our emergency and public safety organisations are better able to respond to events like these,” Minister Rowland said.


“Being able to communicate effectively – from communities receiving emergency messages as quickly as possible to emergency service operators responding to an event – is critical in ensuring that there is minimal disruption to communities and individuals.


“These measures in the 2023-24 Federal Budget will improve our ability to respond to natural disasters or emergencies to keep Australians safe from harm”.


Minister Watt said the new improvements will keep more people safe in an emergency.


“During a fire, flood or cyclone we know every second is critical, so by giving residents and first responders more warning, we can give people the best chance possible,” Minister Watt said.


“Warning systems involve all levels of government, and I’m very pleased to see a high level of engagement and support across Government for these new capabilities.


“The government is investing in the NMS because emergency messages, alerts and warnings need to be delivered to the public in a timely, accurate and targeted manner, we need the most current technology to achieve this. This will help keep Australians safe and mitigate damage to property.”


It is anticipated that the NMS will be designed, built and tested over the next 18 months, becoming operational by late 2024.


In parallel, a national public awareness campaign will be developed and rolled out ahead of implementation, and prior to future high-risk weather seasons.