[LINK] Canberra bushfires
Thu, 23 Jan 2003 09:28:59 +1100
On Wednesday, January 22, 2003, at 12:22 PM, M. da Cruz wrote:
> Can anyone confirm what were the radio transmissions in Canberra during
> the emergency?
Normal trasmitters although the ABC had the 666 transmitter in an alert
area on Tuesday and warned they would take over the ABCFM transmitter
is fire forced their closure
> My understanding, is that in the event of a state of emergency, the ABC
> radio broadcast/transmitters come under the direct control of the
> emergency services. Did this happen?
Don't think it was intended. I found the ABC tremendous. I've had them
on continuously. Outdoors I used a little portable and earphones.
> It would be useful to know if the "fax alerts" referred to were the
> communication or media information packages - perhaps in an emergency
> listeners should be advised to switch to the emergency frequency.
These were bulletins from the emergency centre and were being fed
directly to their web site too. I don't think there was time to run
them though a journalistic sub editing process ;-)
> I must say, I was concerned to hear broadcasts of callers to ABC radio
> stations, in frontline suburbs, providing their take on the
> evacuation/state of alert/return instructions. This kind of hear say
> could excacerbate problems.
I think it was useful. The emergency centre was sometimes late with
news as things were changing too fast for them to keep up and evaluate.
The ABC was flying it's own helicopter and had people on the ground. I
used that as a way of second guessing what the emergency centre might
The criticism of the central management of the emergency centre does
not seem to have taken into account the following -
On saturday when the containment lines failed the EC was relocated from
the forest area back into what anybody would have though was a safe
site well away from the city boundary. the helicopter base also had to
relocate to Nichols (I can hear them flying in and out as I write this)
The fire then jumped ~20km in maybe 15 minutes
Over a very short period -
1. Visibility dropped to zero in many areas. Helicopters were mostly
grounded by the smoke or couldn't safely fly into the area
2. They lost power and I suspect their emergency generator had not yet
been connected up when it happened
3. Their computer system went down. As part of that, or as a
consequence, they couldn't print maps etc and there was one report they
had to get them printed in Queanbean and driven back to Canberra for a
short period. This would be a ~20 minute drive for an emergency vehicle.
4. Fixed line phone started to go out and mobile phone transmitters
started going off the air.
5. It is likely most of the firefighters at the firefront were faced
with an immediate threat to themselves and the houses around them. They
were fixed in place. And if you were near the fire you wouldn't have
been able to hear a radio to use it.
6. During all this fire approached Curtain threatening the EC itself.
The ABC reporter in the EC reported firefighters were on the roof with
hoses preparing the defense of the area. This would have been somewhat
of a distraction.
My read is that there was disorganisation caused by an unexpectedly
fast need to relocate. They then lost much of their ability to
communicate and sources of incoming information. On top of that they
had an immediate threat to their operations.
Al the talk about hazard reduction hasn't mentioned one thing. In
Torrens the fire came through grassland, DOWNHILL, jumped a road and
Opposite the forests there were cases where fireballs jumped houses and
took the house behind. But the talk about hazard reduction relate to
natural forests. This fire came of of managed plantation forests full
of fire trails and hazard reduction.