The Black Saturday fires highlighted many shortcomings in Victoria's (and Australia's) emergency service responses.
One of the largest problems was that many people could not maintain phone contact, either with loved ones or with emergency services. You couldn’t stay home and use a landline – presuming you even had one – and mobiles often didn’t work.
Mobile coverage wasn’t great in that area for certain operators (and even Telstra users struggled when mobile towers were taken out by the firestorm). There was also the fact that emergency services operators cannot determine your location when you call from a mobile phone, which in a frantic and dangerous situation makes it very difficult to help those who most need it.
Many of these issues have since been addressed, particularly if your mobile is a smartphone (which most of them now are). Calling 000 now ignores usual network registration protocols, and you will be able to use any network available, even if you provider has no coverage in that area.
However, if there is no mobile coverage at all in that area, you will need a satellite phone to make a call.
Calls to 000 are also free, such that you can call emergency services even when you have no credit.
The missing piece, however, was the location problem. When you call the 000 operator on a landline, they are able to pinpoint your location via the PSTN. However, this isn’t possible on a mobile.
Thankfully, there is now a solution: the Emergency + app.
The Emergency+ app is a free app developed in by the Australian in partnership with the emergency services industry. It uses the GPS functionality in any smartphone to provide the Triple 0 operator with your precise coordinates.
The Emergency + is free, and is available for iOS, Android and Windows phone. Links to all can be found here.
We urge you to download and install it.