Emergency alerts telling parents schools were closed during Cyclone Debbie came hours after the decision was made.
Emergency alerts telling parents schools were closed during Cyclone Debbie came hours after the decision was made. Chloe Lyons

Cyclone Debbie review: school alerts came hours late

EMERGENCY messages during Cyclone Debbie alerting parents that school had been cancelled were not sent until after school started and two hours after the decision was made.

A review into how the Queensland disaster management system handled Cyclone Debbie found that despite schools being closed before 7.30am, emergency messages were not sent until 9.30am.

Schools from Agnes Water to the NSW border and west to Nanango were closed.

The Inspector-General Emergency Management's review said the Queensland Government decided to close schools and urge businesses to "thing about closing after midday" to reduce the number of people on the roads.

The report recommended the alerts be sent out in a more timely, accurate and targeted manner.

"Warnings work best when timely, contextualised, informative, consistent and understandable," the report said.

"The review found that there was a lack of awareness by many local groups of the capabilities of the EA (emergency alert) system and its requirements, as well as issues relating to the timeliness and content of messages and the number of ad hoc campaigns."

That recommendation was the only one the government did not fully support, instead only supporting it in principle.

In its response the government said it would attempt to develop pre-written emergency messages and education programs to teach local groups how to use the alert system.

"Instead of local and district disaster management groups operating and authorising emergency alerts, the preferred response is for improvements to be made to the process and timeliness of emergency alerts generally, allowing emergency alerts to continue to be issued within the context of wider, coordinated communication strategies."

Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said the report backed up the state's disaster response system.

"When I tasked the inspector-general to undertake this review in April, I was seeking assurance for the people of Queensland that there was a robust approach to continuous improvement across all aspects of Queensland's disaster management system," Mr Ryan said.

"I am greatly encouraged by the findings and recommendations in the inspector-general's review and believe the disaster management system is continuing to evolve and improve and will remain at the forefront of disaster management in Australia."

Despite the criticism of the alert system, he said the report praised the state's disaster response system.

- NewsRegional



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