In an emergency, the provision of public information and warnings plays a significant role in making people and communities safer. Timely, targeted and tailored information and warnings empower people to make informed decisions, to take protective action, and to reduce the potential impacts and consequences of a hazard.
Warnings are a critical component of emergency management, and the evolution of both policy and practice over recent years has been transformative. A series of significant and tragic emergencies across Australia including Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 and major flooding in Queensland during 2010- 11 highlighted the power of warnings to save lives and a need to learn more about why some warning strategies were more successful than others.
Today, the provision of warnings is seen as a priority action in any emergency, equal to any other aspect of traditional response. This applies to any hazard, whether it is a natural hazard such as fire, flood or heatwave, an incident of public safety and security, or a health-related event such as an influenza pandemic.
Across Australia, Commonwealth, state and territory governments and their emergency service organisations and statutory bodies hold responsibilities for issuing warnings in a potential or actual emergency. Community members and organisations also play a shared role in communicating warnings.
The Public Information and Warnings Handbook responds directly to AFAC Strategic Direction 3: The source of credible and timely information.