Carboor firies call for communications black spot fix
Posted February 26, 2016
CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (13:36): It has been a summer of bushfires in north-east Victoria, and telecommunications is presenting as a major issue. The captain of the Carboor Rural Fire Brigade, MF Holmes, wrote to me in December 2015 about the importance of relaying messages to people early so they can act and make a decision whether to stay or go. Carboor only has one sealed road in and out of the valley.
There is no mobile coverage and poor to non-existent internet coverage, so people rely totally on landlines. When power to landlines fails, the community uses two-way radios. This is not the most efficient and effective way to communicate during fires as there is huge traffic on these radios, and the radio signal is also prone to black spots. Mr Holmes reports that communicating the location of a fire during these conditions can take up to 20 minutes and, by that time, the fire can well and truly have moved on.
He writes: 'CFA incident controllers at fires have been told they need to pass information from the fire ground to headquarters quickly and efficiently. This is next to impossible with fire ground traffic on CFA channels receiving and getting instructions, black spots with CFA radio repeaters, no mobile phone coverage and no internet available.'
This situation is not unique to Carboor, which is to the east of Wangaratta; it is also the case in Corryong—I have been contacted by the Corryong CFA—and in my own valley, the Indigo Valley, during the fires before Christmas, and mobile phone coverage was a major issue. We need to pay attention to it.