Community radio going above and beyond in times of emergencies

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 23rd January 2020
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Throughout the recent bushfire crisis and in the aftermath, community radio has remained a vital source of local emergency information and space for community connection.

Since September 2019, the CBAA has reached out to almost 80 community radio stations in bushfire affected regions. We've heard firsthand how the fires have affected our stations and the volunteers that support them.

Along with the heartbreaking stories, we've also heard about the number of ways stations are serving communities by sharing local information and providing a medium for connection and resilience—including conducting formal emergency broadcasting, sharing emergency information on air and online, developing and sharing community service announcements, and working with community groups to organise fundraising events for the local community.

Here are just a handful of stories:

Highland FM – Bowral, NSW Warren Barnett, Andrew Stokeld from HighlandFM and CBAA's Andrew Morris

Throughout the worst of the fires in early January 2020, the station provided regular updates from 8:30am to 3am. As part of the recovery effort, the station is assisting the promotional efforts for FireAid 2020, a benefit concert to be held at Bowral. [Pictured right Warren Barnett (L), station manager Adam Stokeld (C) who kept listeners up-to-date with the lastest RFS updates and road closures, and CBAA's Andrew Morris (R).]

Braidwood FM – Braidwood, NSW

Throughout the 2019/20 bushfire season, the station provided regular updates to the community. The station has developed and maintains an excellent relationship with the local RFS. The station was reported on in the Canberra Times and The Land.

Ten FM – Tenterfield, NSW

Ten FM broadcasts to towns in both NSW and Queensland that have been under threat from bushfires since September 2019. Since this time, the station has been active both on-air and online in regard to the dissemination of emergency information. The station has liaised with different emergency services as their broadcast crosses state boundaries.

Loving Life FM 103.1 – Grafton, NSW

While the station was largely unaffected by bushfires in their region, they were very active as part of fundraising attempts for local brigades of the RFS, helping to raise money for the Coutts Crossing and Nymboida brigades.

STA FM – Inverell, NSW

During the worst of the bushfire crisis, the fires were approx. 5km away from the town. Throughout this time, the breakfast show hosted a representative of the RFS and other updates were broadcast throughout the day. The station has been actively involved in community initiatives adjacent to the bushfire crisis. 65 pallets of Kelloggs cereal were donated to farmers in town as part of an initiative overseen by the station and the Lions Club as part of drought relief.

REG-FM – East Gippsland, VIC

The station is aiming to work with sponsors to develop Community Service Announcements with a focus on disaster recovery. Various community groups have reached out to the station in regards to their role as a voice for the community as a means of facilitating any fundraising and recovery efforts.

Alpine Radio – Mount Beauty, VIC

Alpine Radio is an official Emergency Broadcaster in the Kiewa and Ovens Valleys. Over the two weeks since lightning started bushfires on New Year’s Eve, volunteers broadcast numerous warnings from Forest Fire Management Victoria. On Saturday 4 January the station had several volunteers broadcast throughout the night, ensuring that Emergency Warnings and Evacuate Now messages were broadcast in a timely manner and in accordance with their MOU with Emergency Management Victoria.

Alpine Radio also shared a live audio feed from one of the many community meetings, and interviewed Deputy Incident Controller Jarrod Hayes from Ovens Incident Control Office on 6 January to update listeners on the latest updates. The station has heard that they helped many in the community feel reassured and informed.

The station's President, Nick Brown, then won an Alpine Shire Local Achiever of the Year Award for his service to the community on 26 January 2020.

Do you have a story to share? How is your station contributing to your community in the aftermath of the bushfires? Please let us know at hfriedlander@cbaa.org.au

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