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Report Released for Emergency Communications Needs of People With Disability in Times of Natural Disaster

Queensland, Australia (News4us.com) March 10, 2011

Report Released for Emergency Communications Needs of People With Disability in Times of Natural Disaster

Report Released for Emergency Communications Needs of People With Disability in Times of Natural Disaster

The Australian Communications and Media Authority welcomes the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) report, The Queensland flood disaster: Access for people with disability to phone services and emergency warnings, released today.

‘ACCAN’s report contributes a range of valuable messages about the emergency communications needs of people with disability, in particular for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman.

The report has made a number of recommendations regarding the provision of both emergency and non-emergency calls in such incidents.

The severe flooding risk caused the temporary suspension of most services provided by the government’s National Relay Service (NRS), which provides telecommunications services (including an emergency call service) to people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. The NRS Brisbane call centre was evacuated for 24 hours on 12 January 2011 due to concerns about staff safety and access during the floods.

Importantly, due to the sustained efforts of the Australian Communication Exchange (ACE), as the NRS relay provider, and our grateful support from Telstra, the text-based emergency access via 106 was not interrupted over this period.

The public acknowledgement from ACCAN and peak bodies including: Deaf Australia, the Australian Federation of Deaf Societies and the World Federation of the Deaf for the efforts of the ACMA in using AUSLAN as part of fully informing the NRS community to the disruption was appreciated.

‘The ACMA has been working with ACE to assess how to better mitigate such disruptions in the future and both parties are committed to ensuring that the integrity of the NRS is maintained,’ said Mr Chapman.

‘More broadly, the ACMA has received regular briefings from the major telecommunications providers during the recent run of natural disasters, outlining their preparatory actions, assistance to emergency services, customer support and infrastructure restoration .

‘Given the severity and overlapping demands placed on the telecommunications sector by these recent natural disasters, the ACMA applauds the sector for responding quickly and appropriately. With the combination of power outages, access difficulties and damage to physical infrastructure, the telecommunications providers should be recognised for their dedicated and responsive endeavours.

‘In such natural disasters, it is nonetheless important to examine how responses can be further improved. The ACCAN report is an important contribution to that examination by governments, emergency service providers, the telecommunications and broadcasting sectors and the community,’ Mr Chapman said.

In addition, the ACMA is currently working with the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) on a range of issues related to ACCAN’s report, including giving consideration to how the current NRS, including access to emergency services, could be improved and how best to establish mobile text-based access to emergency services for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment.


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