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Concerns over lack of radio coverage to warn of emergencies


John Thistleton

Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison.

Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison.

Palerang Council will follow up on concerns of lack of ABC Radio coverage in the shire during bushfire emergencies on Tuesday.

Cr Peter Marshall of Captains Flat emailed other councillors about the issue, which was also picked up on Twitter.

Mr Marshall said it was up to the station's political masters to take responsibility and in the past they had told him to rely on the internet, which he said was not an option.

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Mayor Pete Harrison said: ''We have been pushing, as a community, to get mobile phone reception; because of the terrain around Canberra, you can't get mobile phone coverage.''

He had received an automated message on his mobile phone and home phone from the national warning system.

Mr Harrison said in some areas radio reception was available in a car, but not from an average battery-powered radio. He said Captains Flat was in a valley that hindered reception.

He said two false messages on Twitter of evacuations caused concern.

''If there is anything, we [the council] should know about it. It had the potential to cause trouble.''

Cr Garth Morrison tweeted that, despite being the emergency broadcaster, towns in the Canberra region, mainly in Palerang, did not not receive 666 Canberra, and the bushfires highlighted the need for a review of the radio station's reception area and signal strength. A spokesman for the ABC said 666AM was primarily designed for the ACT but due to its transmission configuration, reception was available well outside of the borders and into parts of New South Wales.

''In relation to ABC radio coverage in Braidwood, the only ABC service available there is ABC Digital TV from Mt Gillamatong.

''The ABC provided comprehensive bushfire coverage on January 8 on both News24 and ABC1 in the Braidwood area. ''For areas outside of terrestrial broadcasts the ABC provides a significant presence both online and via the VAST satellite service.''

A NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman said the information it issued to all media outlets was uniform, and the RFS did not favour or provide additional or more timely information to any particular outlet. ''I am not sure if the ABC has an issue internally, but we have provided information to anyone who has called as quickly as we can.

''There is going to be radio blackspots in various places, as there is with all kinds of radios, even the ones we use in fire trucks at times. Where they may be, I'm not in a position to comment, because I simply don't know.''

Emergency alerts were co-ordinated through the RFS and disseminated through phones. ABC Radio made a commitment to provide as much information as possible. Authorities and the ABC say people should not rely on one source of communication during an emergency.

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