ABC teams have spent the winter months training and preparing for the summer peak of bushfire and storm activity while the expansion of reporters in rural and regional areas means comprehensive emergency broadcasting services for local communities.
On Monday the ABC is launching its new campaign to highlight emergency broadcasting services ahead of the 2021/22 bushfire season and to reinforce the ABC’s role as a key source of information during extreme weather events.
Audiences will be reminded of the ABC’s role as an emergency broadcaster and the support it provides to affected communities, emergency response organisations and community groups.
Speaking at an event at Heyfield in East Gippsland, ABC Managing Director David Anderson said it is important Australians know they can turn to the ABC in times of emergency.
“Independent research commissioned following the Black Summer bushfires showed that not only was the ABC the most trusted source of information during an emergency, but lives were saved as a result of people acting on information we provided,” Mr Anderson said.
“One in two Australians say they have used the ABC as their main source of information during a crisis.
“We know that for many people, when digital and telecommunications in an emergency fail, ABC Local Radio is the only way to access timely information to help them survive.”
Mr Anderson was joined in Heyfield by the Hon Darren Chester MP, Country Fire Authority brigades from Heyfield and Maffra, State Emergency Service (SES) representatives, Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and other community representatives.
The ABC launched its campaign in East Gippsland, an area particularly hard hit by bushfires and floods. According to figures from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, 63 per cent or almost 10,000 square kilometres of bushland and forest in East Gippsland was burned in the 2019/20 fires. More than 60,000 people are estimated to have evacuated East Gippsland with a $125 million hit to the East Gippsland economy.
The campaign will run across all ABC platforms focusing on connectedness and preparedness during emergency events.
“Since the bushfires of 2019/2020 we have continually looked at ways in which we can improve and extend our emergency broadcast services to meet the increased demand from communities affected by extreme weather events,” Mr Anderson said.
“This summer we have introduced new measures and ABC content that will help Australians prepare for emergencies. We have increased the number of staff in our national emergency broadcast team in readiness for this summer – based in Vic, QLD, NSW, SA, WA.
“We have spent the downtime over the winter months training almost 300 Local Radio staff – to get them ready for emergency broadcasting – refreshing best practices in EB communications on radio and on social media and in our dealings with emergency services.
“Last weekend was our busiest of this season – with floods in three states and emergency fires in WA.
“With a La Nina alert issued by the BOM we are seeing a much wetter start to this season, with flooding already comparable to those seen in 2016. Almost 70 per cent of our EB coverage since July has been connected to the threats posed by flooding.
“But the unpredictability of the weather means we must be prepared for any emergency situation.”
The ABC has made a number of improvements to its emergency broadcasting services including creating an interactive incident map on its emergency website, making emergency information available on Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker, developed a Stay Connected Toolkit in partnership with Australian Red Cross to prepare for emergencies, and produced a new 15-part podcast series After the Disaster, which helps people navigate the aftermath of a disaster and the challenges they face.