Fires spark emergency radio council motion

A summer of ‘emergency’ awareness from fires across south east Australia has sparked a renewed push for ABC local radio reception across Palerang. Cr Peter Marshall has prepared a Notice Of Motion for the February Palerang Council meeting calling for “staff to prepare a report for Council’s May 2013 Meeting, on the subject of AM radio reception in Palerang, in particular ABC Local Radio as the designated Emergency Broadcaster, and options to improve reception to a degree that it can be picked up by a battery-powered radio.

The report should consider:

* the geographical extent of problems with reception, already known to be minimal in the towns of Captains Flat and Braidwood;

* Options for improvement, including but not necessarily limited to a repeater (rebroadcasting) service in a single or multiple locations, and approximate costs;

* Licensing requirements for establishing a rebroadcasting service, as per the ABC and Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Cr Marshall is a resident of Captains Flat and member of the Rural Fire Service and during the Captains Flat dam emergency in 2011 was keenly aware of the importance of ABC Local Radio as the designated Emergency Broadcaster.

In the ACT and surrounding region the Local Radio is ABC Canberra (aka 666 ABC) however the reception is poor to non-existent in Braidwood and Captains Flat.

Cr Marshall says “The issue comes to the fore during times of emergencies, such as actual or high risk of floods and bushfires, when residents are unable to obtain local information except via computer or television. Government advice is that household emergency kits should include a battery-powered radio, but that serves little purpose in these towns.”

“For several years the communities of Captains Flat and Braidwood have lobbied New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments to provide local radio in their areas” says Cr Marshall.

“This Motion proposes that Palerang Council as a key player in Emergency Management, develop knowledge on the issue, so as to facilitate progress towards a solution. The Motion does not commit Palerang to implementing, or funding, a solution.”

“Costs associated with this motion will be in staff time, but also potentially in engaging technical consultants for surveying signal strength throughout Palerang. Any decision as to whether such technical survey is necessary will be left to Council staff. It may be possible for Council to draw on the experiences of the State Emergency Service and Rural Fire Service with their radio equipment.”

In 2010 a petition of over 500 signatures from the Braidwood Region was sent to Member for Eden – Monaro Dr Mike Kelly, who passed it on the Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy, who replied that residents could get a satellite dish. Since then the popularity of smart phones and radio apps, would have some areas covered, however much of Palerang is still lacking phone coverage, and power may be the first service to go in a major emergency leaving vast areas of the shire isolated. Recent flood emergencies in Queensland have also highlighted congestion and then failure of the mobile network and short life of mobile battery power.

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