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Text Response system would have averted confusion

4 May 2006

Emergency Text Response system would have averted Gisborne Tsunami confusion

A text message emergency response system would have averted confusion arising among Gisborne residents this morning over a tsunami warning.

A Dunedin-based company, which has developed the Emergency Text Response (ETR), says the system would have enabled Civil Defence to send immediate text messages to all cellphones in the Gisborne area advising of the situation.

This meant people would receive updates as they came to hand, information about what to do and reassurance about their situation.

Graham Roper, director and owner of Emergency Information Systems Ltd (EIS), developed the Emergency Text Response System two years ago.

He says it is a unique system, nationally and internationally, which is simple and cost effective. ETR is a registered patent in New Zealand and holds protective patents in other parts of the world.

Mr Roper said if the ETR system had been in place nationally last night, everyone in the Gisborne region with a cellphone, who had it turned on, would have received a series of text messages generated from Civil Defence, advising them what was happening and what to do.

Mr Roper said the system utilises the Telecommunications frameworks and utilises state-of-the-art technology which already exists. It has the capacity to continually update data for all information requirements during a Civil Defence emergency.

"Exchange of information via cellphone is the most efficient way to communicate as mobile repeaters can be rapidly deployed,” he said.

Mr Roper said the system has the capacity to isolate separate regions affected by a Civil Defence emergency.

Mr Roper, an ex-paramedic, said the ETR system had been developed with the idea of it ultimately becoming a central government-generated response (through Civil Defence or the 111 system). He said the concept had been with the Minister of Civil Defence (past and present) for the last 18 months. Both Telecom and Vodaphone had also been approached.

"I guess today's events have realised my worst fears about New Zealand's preparedness for a major emergency," said Mr Roper. "I shudder to think of the outcome if a tsunami had struck our shores.

"By a simple text message, loss of life in this situation would at least be reduced, if not prevented.

"Ultimately ETR enables a major form of communication in the event of a civil defence emergency. It also empowers people to act and take control of a situation that could save lives."


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