Australia's Triple Zero emergency call service will now deliver pre-recorded announcements should operators be overwhelmed during large-scale emergencies.
Announced yesterday by Attorney-General Robert McClelland, the new national protocol is expected to better manage unusually high call volumes.
Recorded announcements are expected to last an average of 15 seconds, and only apply to calls that do not immediately reach a human operator.
The announcements advise callers to hold if they require emergency Police, Fire or Ambulance assistance, and refer them to an information line should they be calling for information about any current large-scale emergencies.
"As we saw during last year's Victorian Bushfires, the capacity of the Triple Zero service can be quickly overwhelmed in the event of a significant or widespread emergency," the Attorney-General's department announced.
Under the new protocol, Telstra may activate a recorded announcement if requested to do so by States and Territories in a disaster.
Announcements would be pre-recorded by States and Territories and provided to Telstra, so that they are on hand if needed, a departmental spokesman told iTnews.
The spokesman did not mention any way of bypassing the announcements in case of a time-critical emergency.
However, he assured iTnews: "A caller to Triple Zero will only hear recorded announcements if they are not immediately able to be responded to by a Triple Zero operator."
According to the Attorney-General's Department, people often call Triple Zero seeking information, rather than emergency assistance, during large-scale emergencies.
The Department estimates that approximately 40 percent of Triple Zero calls can be directed elsewhere in order to free up lines for life-threatening or time-critical calls for help.