Civil Defence considers NZ-designed alert system

Civil Defence says Southland residents could benefit from a New Zealand-designed emergency alert system but it is still deciding whether to officially endorse the product.

Lert Info, launched in Dunedin in November, works by collecting information from sources such as Geonet and sending a text message or email to subscribers in the affected area, making them aware of emergencies such as volcanoes, severe weather, epidemics and evacuation notices.

Lert Info director Stuart Gunn travelled to Invercargill to talk with Southland Civil Defence about the project and said, despite the Christchurch earthquakes, many New Zealanders were still not prepared for an emergency.

He believed Lert Info could help disseminate warnings more quickly, getting more people to safety.

Although the Lert desk was only manned between 7am and 10pm, staff were on standby to send alerts outside those hours, Mr Gunn said.

Emergency Management Southland manager Neil Cruickshank said the Lert system, or one similar, had the potential to save the lives of many New Zealanders but Civil Defence had some concerns with the technology. With Southland being a predominantly rural province, cellphone and 3G reception was not available to everyone and so text message systems like Lert could not reach the entire population.

The reliability of information sent out was also something to be investigated, Mr Cruickshank said.

Emergency Management would examine the Lert system and decide whether to endorse it during the next few months, he said.

The Southland Times