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Cyclone Debbie - Being Mobile Prepared for Emergencies

Cyclone Debbie moved across the north Queensland coast as a category four system yesterday, bringing wind gusts of 260 kilometres per hour. It has now been downgraded to category one, however the full extent of the devastation is yet to be determined.

As expected, some power outages to parts of northern Queensland may also have impacted mobile networks as base stations can only rely on limited back-up power for relatively short periods.

Mobile carriers have information on their websites on known mobile outages that you can check here by entering your address:
• Optus—cyclone specific:…/cyclone-debbie-network-update…/
• Optus network outages: 
• Telstra—cyclone specific:…/Tropical-…/ba-p/664409 
• Telstra service status: 
 • Vodafone network status:

Mobile carriers work with power companies and emergency services to restore power and mobile network services immediately after cyclones, however the following tips can help you to be prepared by using your mobile device to stay safe during an emergency situation.

Tips for being mobile-prepared

1. In an urgent medical or life threatening emergency situation, call Triple Zero (000). Remember you can call Triple Zero (000) even without a SIM card in your mobile, provided you have battery power and are within the coverage area of any Australian mobile network. Find out more about calling Triple Zero (000) from a mobile here.

2. Pay attention to any Emergency Alert warnings you might receive via text messaging on your mobile.

3. Save important "In Case of Emergency" or ICE contact numbers for family, friends in your contacts on your mobile device so you will easily be able to access them in an emergency. Having numbers listed under ICE in your contacts list can also assist emergency workers or others get in contact with someone who can help with vital information about you if something happens to you.

4. Save numbers for emergency service organisations in your contact list. For example, you may wish to include:

  •         State Emergency Services (SES) -  132 500
  •         Police Assistance Line (PAL) - 131 444
  •         local police station and fire services
  •         doctor's surgery and local hospital
  •         your spouse or partner's workplace, childcare centres or schools, nursing home etc
  •         neighbours
  •         vets
  •         poisons information line 131 126

5. If you have a smartphone, download the relevant Emergency App for your State. These are usually available from the Windows, Google Play and Apple App stores for free. Such Apps use your smartphone's GPS capability to provide you with your location information and alerts. which you can then give to the Triple Zero (000) operator if needed. Links to download the free App can be found at

6. Keep your batteries charged as you will always need battery power to use your mobile device; remembering that power outages can often occur during or after natural disasters. Conserve battery power during emergencies and disasters by only using your device for important communications, rather than web browsing or video streaming.

7. Remember if you are in your home, you may still be able to receive information by radio or tv and that you can use your landline (if you have one) to call Triple Zero (000) or other emergency numbers.

8. Sometimes mobile networks can experience temporary outages during natural disasters or emergency situations or they may simply be handling a lot of traffic. If you are unable to use your mobile to make a voice call, try sending an SMS or contacting family/friends by social media. And limit your communications to both conserve battery power and reduce traffic on networks.

You can read more about how to be "mobile phone prepared" for emergencies and natural disasters here.

For additional tips and advice on keeping your mobile phone charged up and operational during emergencies, visit the ABC News online web page: Cyclone Debbie: How to keep your phone charged in a weather event

Photo credit: AAP: Sarah Motherwell

29 March 2017


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