Partly in response to the Victoria Bushfires in February 2009, the Federal Government late last year launched the "National Emergency Warning System" (NEWS): http://www.alp.org.au/media/1209/msag040.php . It was immediately also trialled in NSW under the name 'Emergency Alert'.
The system works by sending voice and text (SMS) messages to phones in the threatened area.
Telstra and the government are quick to point out the obvious flaw in this system, that they say will be addressed in future versions: Messages go out according to phones with their billing address in the area under threat only, which is not guaranteed to be the phones' actual location, especially in case of mobiles. Furthermore, people may be interested in areas beyond their phone's location.