The Australian government will fund the development of a National Emergency smartphone application to help reduce unnecessary calls to triple zero in the event of natural disasters.
At a meeting of emergency management ministers from Australia and New Zealand held in Wellington on Friday, Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland said that the application would provide real-time information about disasters directly to people's phones, and take advantage of a smartphone's additional features.
"The use of GPS technology through this app could allow location-specific information to be fed to users," he said.
However, the main reason for the application would be to alleviate pressure to triple zero from calls that aren't urgent.
"Nearly half of all calls to triple zero are non-urgent calls, and when a disaster happens, calls are often requests for information about the disaster," he said.
"It's important the community knows where to find information during a disaster to take the pressure off Triple Zero, so that those who need urgent fire, ambulance or police assistance are not held up."
In addition, ministers discussed recommendations made in a recent report; for example, the adoption of separate State Emergency Service, police assistance and bushfire reporting numbers, and the improvement of various aspects of the triple zero service, including the website, call handling practices at call centres and awareness of how the service should be used.