A smartphone and tablet app has been developed that could saves the lives of Victorians who are deaf or hard of hearing this fire season.
OpenAccess Alerts now shares text-based emergency alerts as people who cannot hear, or not hear well, often miss out on announcements made through audio channels including radio, television and loudspeakers on which others in the community rely in times of crisis.
The app, developed by the Conexu Foundation, now includes emergency warnings from Emergency Management Victoria, as well as the latest traffic, weather and public transport updates. The app is free to download on both Apple and Android devices.
Conexu's chief strategy officer Rachel McKay said it was vital for everyone to have equal access to information, and in times of emergency these updates could save lives.
Victoria's emergency services were the first in the country to provide their content into the app, she said.
OpenAccess Alerts is time sensitive and identifies the users geographic location with GPS technology, so users can receive the vital information anytime and anywhere with telecommunications service, Ms McKay said.
When an alert comes up in a person's area, the app will make their smartphone vibrate to notify them.
The royal Commission into the fatal Black Saturday bushfires highlighted that people who were deaf or hard of hearing, and those who did not speak English missed out on emergency messages, Victoria's Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said at unveiling of the new app capabilities in Bendigo on Monday.
"The OpenAccess Alerts app is another tool in an extensive emergency information and warming system and will support existing channels accessible to those who are deaf or hard of hearing such as the FireReady app and Victorian Bushfire Information Line, available via the National Relay Service," Mr Lapsley said.
His team has also worked with VicDeaf to have Auslan (Australian Sign Language) translations of emergency information on television and online videos.
"It's also a timely reminder to Victorians as we approach another summer season to never rely on one source of emergency information - don't wait to receive a warning on your phone before you act," he said during Fire Action Week.