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Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS)

What is SEWS?

SEWS is a distinctive audio signal that has been adopted to alert the community to the broadcast of an urgent safety message relating to a major emergency/disaster. It is intended for use as an alert signal to be played on public media (such as radio, television, public address systems, mobile sirens), to draw listeners’ attention to a following emergency warning. It is meant to attract listeners’ attention to the fact that they should take notice of the emergency message.

Authority to Use SEWS

Only the following people are authorised to use SEWS:

  • The State or Territory Regional Director of the Bureau of Meteorology for weather and flood related events
  •  Initiating authority/authorities nominated by each State/Territory for non-weather related events in that State/Territory

Why and when will SEWS be used?

The broadcast of practical information to the public in an emergency will enable the community to take appropriate actions to protect life and property. The Standard Emergency Warning Signal (SEWS) will alert the public to information about actions they can take to reduce potential loss of life and property.

It is vital that the effectiveness of the SEWS is preserved by limiting its use to significant events only. The signal is only to be used in emerging situations of extreme danger, when there is a need to warn the public that they need to take some urgent and immediate action in order to reduce the potential for loss to life or property from emergency events. Such events will be restricted to:

  • Severe Thunderstorm
  • Wind Gust > 125km/h
  • Severe Flooding leading to residential inundation
  • Intense Rainfall leading to Flash Flooding and/or Landslides
  • Cyclone
  • Tsunami
  • Large Hail > 4cm in diameter (corresponding to > golf ball size)
  • Tornado
  • Storm Tide > 0.5 m above Highest Astronomical Tide
  • Hazardous Materials Emergency
  • Biological Hazard/Major Pollution, Hazardous Material or Biohazard Emergency
  • Earthquake Aftershock
  • Dam Failure/Dam burst
  • Major Bushfire/Major Urban and Rural Fire
  • Public Safety Emergency

 For more information and to hear the Standard Emergency Warning Signal visit or