Once again, the ABC prepares for emergency broadcasting

Once again, the ABC prepares for emergency broadcasting

With world temperatures hitting their highest ever in September and bushfires and floods already affecting several States, the ABC is again gearing up its emergency broadcasting.

Fire on the South Coast of NSW

The ABC will have its biggest ever peak season emergency broadcasting team this year. The team operates 365 days a year, but increases every summer.

The ABC is also in discussions with emergency services to ensure there are fire mitigation strategies around transmission towers, and it is investing in portable satellite terminals for news crews so audiences can be updated in the event of infrastructure damage.

ABC Friends has argued for many years that the ABC’s emergency service must be fully funded because, in times of crisis, Australians rely on the ABC. In a survey conducted after the 2020 bushfires in NSW 60% of respondents said information provided by the ABC helped ensure their safety. 

Between 2017 and 2020, the need for emergency broadcasts more than doubled, but funding during this period went backwards.

"Every year, more and more people around Australia are forced to deal with extreme weather and its impacts, Friends President, Cassandra Parkinson said.

“The ABC is the only network able to deliver this critical service. It must be properly funded to do the job”.

ABC presenter, Richard Glover, was on the south coast of NSW during the 2020 bushfires and, he told listeners:

“A few people always ask ‘why are you doing this?’ 

The first answer is … people lose power and mobile phone coverage and the only thing you’ve got left is a battery-operated transistor radio or a radio in the car.

And the second answer is that people can share information. It’s a really good spot for people to share information which they have very actively been doing.”

In preparation for the coming months, the ABC is running a radio, online and social media information campaign to help communities prepare for increased fire and weather activity.

Audiences will be reminded of the ABC’s role as an emergency broadcaster and the support it provides to affected communities.

The ABC Emergency website has been boosted to include information relating to:

  • Preparing for bushfires, floods, storms, cyclones and heatwaves
  • Packing emergency survival kits and safeguarding homes
  • Links to set the local ABC Radio station in ABC Listen and find nearest radio frequencies.

An interactive incident map, aggregating information from key emergency and support services, including rural and regional fire services, state emergency services and the Bureau of Meteorology, will also allow users to check emergency events in their area and elsewhere.

ABC Director News Justin Stevens encouraged people to visit the ABC emergency website and make sure they have the details of their local ABC Radio station. He said:

“Rest assured that the ABC will be here for you in an emergency."

In May, ABC Friends met with a senior adviser to Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, to discuss the need to better fund the ABC’s emergency broadcasting services. We’ll continue to pursue this issue in the lead-up to the next budget. 

The ABC is an essential service.

Sophie Arnold
E-news Editor