Emergency Broadcasting


Increasingly community broadcasters are taking on the responsibility of providing warnings and other information to their communities in times of emergency. It is absolutely vital that community broadcasters provide accurate information to listeners from official sources.

Primary responsibility for the protection of life, property and the environment rests with the states and territories. State and territory emergency management agencies have full autonomy in relation to:

  • whether and when to issue an emergency warning
  • which delivery mechanisms to use to disseminate the emergency warning
  • the content of the warning.

Individual states and territories choose which warning technologies to adopt and when to activate them in accordance with the specific circumstances of an incident. All states and territories have disaster emergency plans that include a communications component for the dissemination of rapid onset emergency warnings to the community. Nationally agreed emergency warning principles also underpin warning arrangements.


National Best Practice Guidelines for the Request and Broadcast of Emergency Warnings

The National Best Practice Guidelines for the Request and Broadcast of Emergency Warnings were endorsed by the then Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management – Emergency Management (MCPEM-EM) in 2007. They were also endorsed by the peak broadcast media bodies representing all sectors of the industry.

The Guidelines provide a simple, consistent and clearly defined process across all emergency services and broadcast media for issuing, verifying, updating and terminating broadcast requests. The Guidelines have been used as a primary source document when developing new or revised memorandums of understanding or arrangements relating to broadcast warnings.

All States and Territories have processes and formal agreements with the public broadcaster, and commercial broadcast media, and, many have progressed formal arrangements with pay and community broadcast media.

PDF icon National Best Practice Guidelines for the Request and Broadcast of Emergency Warnings.PDF


Australia’s Emergency Warnings Arrangements

The Attorney-General's Department document entitled Australia’s Emergency Warnings Arrangements outlines the policies, principles, collective responsibilities, and warning methods that underpin emergency warnings sent from government authorities to Australian communities. 

PDF icon Australias Emergency Warning Arrangements.pdf


Emergency warning principles

In October 2008, the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management - Emergency Management (MCPEM-EM) endorsed the following 12 national emergency warning system principles. The principles provide a framework that guides activities in the public warning sphere. Adhering to these principles also improves the effectiveness of emergency warnings and communications across all jurisdictions:

  • Coordinated: a warning system should avoid duplication of effort where possible and support a shared understanding of the situation among different agencies involved in managing the incident.
  • Authoritative and accountable: warnings are to be disseminated on the decision of an authorised person. Authorities should be able to interrogate the System components for later analysis.
  • Consistent / Standards based: the information content is coordinated across all of the mechanisms used for warnings. Messages must be consistent across different sources if they are to be believed by the general population. Conflicting messages tend to create uncertainty and will delay responsive action. Any relevant identified standards will underpin the agreed System Framework.
  • Complete: message content should include relevant pertinent details, including possibly a direction on the need to consult other sources, presented in a way that is easily and quickly understood by the population. This includes multiple languages in some cases, as well as the use of multi-media for those who are illiterate or people with a disability (eg. people who are Deaf or have a hearing impairment or those who are blind or have a vision impairment).
  • Multi-modal: warnings are to be disseminated using a variety of delivery mechanisms and in multiple information presentation formats that will, in some circumstances, complement each other to produce a complete picture, with planning and processes to allow for maximum reach to all members of the community and to provide for redundancies in the case of critical infrastructure failure (eg. power or telecommunications).
  • All-hazards: any emergency warning system developed will be capable of providing warnings, where practicable, for any type of emergency.
  • Targeted: messages should be targeted to those communities at risk in order to reduce the complacency that can result from people receiving warnings that do not apply to them – 'over warning'.
  • Interoperable: have coordinated delivery methods, capable of operation across jurisdictional borders for issuing warnings.
  • Accessible and responsive: capable of responding to and delivering warnings in an environment of demographic, social and technological change. Recognise the criticality of adopting universal design and access principles, particularly in the development and acquisition of technologies.
  • Verifiable: the community is able to verify and authenticate the warnings to reduce incidents of accidental activations and prevent malicious attempts to issue false alerts to a population.
  • Underpinned by education and awareness raising activities: the System, any delivery mechanisms that constitute it and the language used in the warning messages it delivers, should be underpinned by appropriate education and awareness raising activities.
  • Compatible: with the existing telecommunications networks and infrastructure without adversely impacting on the normal telephone and broadcast system. The System should avoid any adverse operational, technical or commercial implications for the provision of current communications services to consumers and on the integrity of communications networks.

To underpin the implementation of the national telephone-based emergency warning capability, in 2009, States and Territories added a further two principles:

  • Compliant with relevant legislation: warnings should be compliant with relevant Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation, associated regulations and policy.
  • Integrated: warnings should be integrated to ensure timely notification to multiple organisational stakeholders and communication channels.

A number of States and Territories have developed their own protocols that reference these guidelines.


ACT - Emergency Services Agency

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) is the ACT Government organisation charged with providing emergency management services to the Canberra community.

The ESA comprises the ACT Ambulance Service, ACT Fire & Rescue, the ACT Rural Fire Service, the ACT State Emergency Service and the ESA Support Services.

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) provides emergency information, advice and warnings to the community in a number of ways, including electronic media outlets, the ESA website, social media, Canberra Connect, an ACT Government website that collects community feedback.


NSW - The State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC)

The community of New South Wales lives with a variety of natural and technological hazards. The more common hazards are floods, severe storms, and bushfires but other events such as exotic animal disease, major aircraft crashes and earthquakes are possible. Emergency Management involves a range of programs and arrangements designed to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from the effects of hazards impacting on the community.

The State Emergency Management Committee was established under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act to ensure that New South Wales has a system to cope with emergencies which is robust, effective and flexible enough to deal with the range of hazards experienced in New South Wales. A hazard impacting on the community may result in an emergency. 

The Committee has set up a web page centralising social media updates from all NSW emergency services for the community. Broadcasters should follow protocol before sharing emergency information on air.


VIC - Emergency Management Victoria

Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) is the overarching body which supports and enables the Emergency Management Commissioner (EMC) to fulfil their role. The Emergency Management Commissioner is responsible for the overall response to major emergencies, including coordinating the management of the consequences of the emergency.

EMV plays a key role in implementing the Victorian Government’s emergency management reform agenda. This work will drive how Victoria’s emergency services organisations train together, work to common operating standards, share the same operational picture, and use equipment and systems that work together.

The Victorian Government has formal arrangements for the broadcast of emergency warnings and information to the community. 

Victoria has Memoranda of Understanding with a number of broadcasters and Emergency Management Victoria is the administrator of Victoria’s emergency broadcasting policy on behalf of the emergency services, including the CFA, Department of Environment and Primary Industries  (DEPI), Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) and the Victoria State Emergency Services (VICSES).

During emergencies, Victoria’s emergency broadcasters will broadcast information, including updates and community alerts, which will help the public to make decisions based on the advice of the emergency services.

In November 2015, the EMV also established a central website for all Victorian emergency information.


NT - Northern Territory Emergency Service

The Northern Territory Emergency Service (NTES) is a division of the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services (NTPFES). The NTES is responsible for facilitating Emergency Management planning, raising public awareness of potential disasters and providing a response capability for emergency events through dedicated volunteers, in cooperation with NT and Local Government, as well as community groups.


QLD - Emergency Management Queensland

Emergency Management Queensland (EMQ) contributes to safer, more resilient and sustainable communities by delivering services through:

  • leading and coordinating activities undertaken before, during and after a disaster or emergency to minimise adverse community impacts
  • disaster awareness including community safety and education programs, and the Emergency Services Cadets
  • response and recovery services including State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, Emergency Service Units, EMQ Helicopter Rescue and state disaster response management
  • supporting volunteer marine rescue organisations as well as contract and community helicopter providers
  • actively engaging with local government to promote disaster management and volunteer management priorities.


SA - South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission

The South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM) is the agency responsible for supporting the Country Fire Service, Metropolitan Fire Service and the State Emergency Service, undertaking strategic policy planning, governance and resource allocation for the overall fire and emergency services sector. SAFECOM also supports emergency management planning across South Australia.


TAS - State Emergency Service

The State Emergency Service (SES) provides a volunteer response capability for a range of general rescue and community support roles. In addition the SES provides whole of government advice and executive support to the State Emergency Management Committee and Regional Emergency Management Planning Groups.  It also takes the lead with much of the State's emergency management planning and emergency risk management work.


WA - Department of Fire and Emergency Services

As Western Australia’s leading hazard management agency, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) performs a critical role coordinating emergency services for a range of natural disasters and emergency incidents threatening life and property. Supported by an extensive network of over 29,000 volunteers and 1100 career firefighters DFES works together with the community and government to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from a diverse range of emergencies.


Information for stations interesting in establishing themselves as emergency broadcasters.