The Southland Civil Defence and Emergency Management Group is to lobby the Government for more funding for mobile phone warning systems.
At its meeting yesterday, members agreed to write to the Government seeking money to investigate mobile technology.
The group said setting up a mobile phone warning service for natural disasters was too expensive for a small council.
Environment Southland councillor Neville Cook, who chaired the meeting, said the current warning systems such as sirens were "steam powered" compared with the technology now available and the options should be looked at.
Acting Environment Southland chief executive Graham Alsweiler said warning and information in the event of a disaster was important and people did not necessarily need a siren to warn them about a tsunami or earthquake any more.
Southland District Council chief executive Dave Adamson said many people would look to their mobile phone or similar device before older methods of contact in a civil defence emergency.
The committee resolved to write to Civil Defence Minister Chris Tremain seeking funding.
Emergency Management Southland manager Neil Cruickshank said on Monday that there wasn't an effective technological solution for broadcasting alerts.
"We think, in this day and age, there should be an answer out there," he said.
Emergency Management Southland relied on a mix of systems to warn people, including radio broadcasts, social networking sites and word-of-mouth, as well as the siren system in Invercargill, he said.
Long-term, the siren system was not the preferred option to alert residents to an emergency.
"There's a whole raft of reasons. If you're going to have a siren system it needs to meet certain (technological) standards and have really good coverage. That's extremely expensive and it still doesn't deliver a particularly good solution."
There had been quite a bit of research done in the last couple of years and "sirens don't really stack up".
While no one system could reach everybody, a move to include cellphone technology in the region's warning systems was likely to increase the number of people who were reached by alerts, Mr Cruickshank said.
"The research has shown that it meets quite a high audience. It's very common technology these days and there's good coverage, and there is the ability, with some money being spent, for the technology to broadcast to every cellphone within a particular area very quickly."
Cellphone alerting systems have been used overseas to warn people of emergencies such as the Victorian bushfires in 2009.
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management had met New Zealand cellphone providers and there was agreement that the technology to introduce a cellphone alerting system existed, but the major issue was funding to introduce such a system, which would cost millions of dollars, Mr Cruickshank said.
Local government would not be able to fund that alone and it was also important the systems used by each of the south's territorial authorities was consistent, he email@example.com
- © Fairfax NZ News
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