Fine then, burn

Yesterday the Victorian Police tried to use SMS messaging to communicate the need to be bushfire aware to the state’s citizens, which would seem a prudent thing to do when less than a month ago we saw one of the worst natural disasters in our nation’s history. But that hasn’t stopped some people complaining.

It seems that some people are complaining about receiving a fire warning, but not subsequently having their house burnt down, while others feel left out because everyone that they know got the message, but not them. All of these whiners need to shut the hell up, the Black Saturday disaster has everyone in the state nervous and the emergency services are trying to do everything that they can to prevent any more deaths. The message wasn’t panic inducing, and it wasn’t designed to remove the need for rational thought and personal responsibility.

Technical solutions, especially those put together at short notice, will always have edge cases where things don’t work, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to meet the needs of the 99% for whom the solution is useful. I think the bigger problem that this highlights is how removed people are from considering their place in a broader community or environment and how little they value personal responsibility.

32 thoughts on “Fine then, burn

  1. It did affect people in different ways. Within minutes of that message going out I had a phone call from a woman in Melbourne who had booked two units for this long weekend coming. She was on the verge of cancelling and it was the SMS that spooked her.

    After I assured her that (a) the alert was only for Tuesday (b) we’ve had no fires threatening Bright and there are none here at the moment (c) the weather forecast from Wednesday on is for low to mid 20s, she calmed down.

    I just hope this “event” today doesn’t eventuate. It hasn’t yet – there’s no wind and it’s been raining all morning!

  2. That sort of chicken little response can’t be blamed on the SMS though Ray, it said to tune to the ABC or check the bushfire info line because there was a day of extreme danger today. If that’s panic inducing then we may as well give up right now.

    I also hope that the ‘event’ doesn’t occur, but I fear that many people seem to have slipped into complacency so quickly and will see this warning as crying wolf.

  3. No, I’m not “blaming” it on the SMS, it just spooked her into action (or reaction). Obviously not everyone is up to date on where the current fires are.

    I don’t have a problem with the SMS idea if it makes people a little bit more alert.

  4. Isn’t it great that they can ACTUALLY contact such a high proportion of the population so instantaneously. I see that they have located the weaknesses (e.g.around borders, etc.) so that next time, they will actually reach more people.

    … “now, how could we mis-use such a system”, I hear you ask!

  5. Hee… my message came through at 7:45pm. I was beginning to feel uncared for.

    Seeing as my parents are a) in the (02) area code part of Victoria; and b) live in a house situated in a perfect location for never ever ever being able to get mobile phone access, I doubt that they got this SMS message…. I don’t care that they didn’t get the SMS, I don’t care if the SMS is now being perceived as an alarmist move by the emergency services, I don’t care that some people who didn’t need the warning got it.

    I just don’t want ANYONE thinking that an SMS warning will ever be the perfect answer for an early warning plan. As Greg said, they know now where a few issues are along state border lines, but there’s still a lot of gaps.

    That didn’t sound like whining did it? I think the SMS is great. It’s just not THE answer.

  6. I don’t think an SMS is ideal, technically, but it does seem to be the best tool available at the moment for disruptive mass communication.

    The truth is that if there was a reliable way to quickly spread a message to a very large group of people then advertisers would have found it by now. They haven’t. A piecemeal solution will have to do.

    An enormous amount of relevant and timely information is available for people in fire prone areas, but they need to make the effort to prepare themselves. Sadly there seems to be a spoon fed mentality amongst so many people.

  7. In Bright we’ve got the world’s best ‘early warning system’ – or at least the potential for it.

    Every holiday period the Rotary Club drives around the streets with a P.A. system mounted on top of their vehicle shouting out advertisements, such as for the local plays or … fireworks!

    We must be the only town in Australia still using this amplified ‘Town Crier’ method and it’s truly cringeworthy.

    So I think they should be comandeered into a more proactive service to drive around the streets yelling out “FFFF…..Fire!” whenever there’s a heightened risk. You couldn’t miss it.

  8. We must be the only town in Australia still using this amplified ‘Town Crier’ method and it’s truly cringeworthy.

    That’s almost enough to make me come up to Bright with my sister and her fiance next time they come up to go boating or something.

  9. Oh, it gets better than that, 100Fs, have you ever seen the Bright Gala Day parade? A parade of locals doing … well, what locals do. This year the theme is “heroes”. I’m going as Superman.

    PS: That boat ride in the Ovens should be interesting, it’s more like white-water rafting in there!

  10. I’m also loving the town crier idea, although the sms will suffice too. I’d apply for the job myself, if a hat and bell were included.

  11. You woulda had me if you added a feather boa.. Ah well, maybe we could swap it for a mankini and you could do the job Ray?

  12. The Bright Gala Day parade sounds disturbingly familiar to me.

    But we called it the Tallangatta Arts Festival, and it died sometime while I was a primary school. I faintly remember taking part as a pirate one year..

  13. Well the Bright parade is coming up to its 50th year. It still draws a big crowd but people don’t seem to need much of an excuse to come here. Makes you wonder why we don’t hold more events. I notice that Tallangatta is trying very hard and always coming up with new events to attract people. They’re up against it of course, with the lake not being what it used to be. Bright, on the other hand, has the natural setting. Pity we don’t promote it more though.

  14. Oh Ray, that lake is the sorest point – well, for me at least. It’s one of the things guaranteed to make me start ranting for hours about anti-country State Government legislation and attitudes, as well as the futility of trying to future-proof anything.

    Tallangatta keeps trying, but I think they need to look again at what they are and what they can do. There are so many other towns trying to yank in the tourist dollar – and much more successfully. Who wants to see 1950s architecture beside an ugly empty lake, when there’s so much more in-your-face history in Beechworth, or Bright, or any of those other little towns?

    It would probably take a huge cultural paradigm shift, but I think the area should start thinking about turning itself into a place where families want to live, rather than a place that people think they might want to visit.

  15. They did try. A few years ago the Towong council advertised for expressions of interest from developers to build a huge residential estate (on the lake) that would house up to 5,000 people. I forget what it was called and it doesn’t seem to have got off the ground, but I think it’s the way of the future – to try to attract tree changers.

    Btw, do you know where the water in Lake Hume now goes? To Adelaide – because there’s nothing coming down the Darling. We’re keeping Adelaide alive at our cost all because Queensland won’t reign in the water hoggers up in the Darling’s headwaters.

  16. We have completely OTed this thread. Apologies to Dave for the hijacking.

    That development thingy… North East Lakes? I think that’s what it was called. I remember reading all the promo stuff they had, and just wondering why the whole thing seemed to be aimed at the retiree market.

    I wonder how they’d go aiming for a younger… errr… more eco-conscious market. “Come! Raise your young’uns in a safe country environment, nestled in the hills, build a sustainable house, get your energy from the sun, grow your own vegies, live a more natural lifestyle!!” Play on people’s green guilt. Encourage the production of local organic produce and specialty products, create a little self-sustaining economy with farmer’s markets. T’gatta is close enough to Albury Wodonga to allow people to work there, and the rail trail does make it conceivable that some could even cycle into work. If they were fit and crazy enough….

    Gyah. Crazy pipe dreams.

    I’m not completely up with how water is managed beyond Victorian borders, but what you say does not surprise me.

  17. No disrepect, 100Fs, but you’re dreamining if you think you can attract younger people to live in Tallangatta before you attract the older ones.

    The concept wasn’t aimed so much at retirees but at ‘baby boomers’ seeking a change of lifestyle and/or retirement or semi-retirement. It wasn’t meant to be an ‘old folks home’ but a home for those with the time (and money) to invest in the area.

    The idea is that younger family groups would eventually be attracted once there was an economy to earn a living from.

    But we (the baby boomers) are a forever young lot anyway – we’ll never retire, never grow old (or up!)

    Yeah, getting back to Dave’s post, I think they need to send out a new SMS:


  18. “But we (the baby boomers) are a forever young lot anyway – we’ll never retire, never grow old (or up!)”

    yeah – hogging all the good jobs! move over and give gen x and y a go!


  19. I am Gen X and my parents are warbabies not boomers thankyou.

    Name one good thing boomers have done for this world. Oh yeah, the peace loving hippie 60s before they all got government jobs screwing the planet.

  20. I am reminded of the complaints from travelers who, despite warnings of a certain impending hurricane weren’t decided that they knew better and swarmed to New Orleans (including someone who works in my office) and then complained because the authorities weren’t doing enough to ensure that they got their scheduled flights back home (including the woman from our office). Meanwhile, native New Orleans..ians… including the elderly, handicapped and the poor were drowning by the thousands because they had no choice about being in the middle of it.

    If they HADN’T warned people they would be complaining, anyway.

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