Call for help - if you can: Mobile black spots cause emergency services app issues

MOBILE phone black spots in the Wimmera could prevent residents from using a new smartphone app developed to help emergency services find people calling for assistance.

Emergency+ gives users a GPS reference they can tell emergency services when they dial 000.

Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said the app could save lives.

“More than 65 per cent of calls to 000 are now made from mobile phones,” he said.

“Sometimes mobile phone users are not aware of their physical location, making it difficult for emergency call operators to accurately and quickly dispatch emergency services.

"This app solves that problem.”

But Mr Tehan said the technology would be more effective if the region’s reception black spots were eliminated.

Horsham, West Wimmera, Hindmarsh and Northern Grampians councils made a joint application to the Australian Local Government Association to lobby for better phone coverage at the group’s national general assembly in June.

The association resolved to lobby the Federal Government for additional funding for mobile telephone and data services in regional areas.

The Coalition made an election promise to invest $100 million on improving mobile phone coverage.

Horsham Mayor David Grimble believed his municipality’s phone reception black spots were well-placed on the list of funding priorities.

“Our black spots have been identified for quite some time, particularly around Wartook, Brimpaen and Laharum areas, being tourist precincts,” he said.

“They have been identified on a state and federal level, and a number of community and business people have raised mobile phone issues on numerous occasions.

“So they’re on the radar.”

He was unsure when funding would be announced, but hoped Horsham’s priorities would be included.

Cr Grimble said mobile phone reception was a basic need for rural communities, for many reasons.

While he welcomed the app, he said calling for help in a remote area could be difficult.

“This is a basic need for rural communities, for many reasons,” he said.

Northern Grampians Mayor Kevin Erwin urged people not to rely on their mobile phones if they were wandering into unfamiliar terrain.

“If you’re going into remote areas, have more than one safety device in case of emergency,” he said.

“If these apps are around, people assume they work when required and when it comes to the crunch, they could be in serious trouble.

“None of these things are 100 per cent foolproof.”

He said the shire’s telecommunications coverage was generally inconsistent.

“It needs to be addressed, and hopefully the Federal Government has put money aside to do so,” Cr Erwin said.

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said talks about NBN Co’s plans for the region had dominated recent telecommunications discussions.

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