Australia — It is up to the community, not authorities, to implement an early warning system in the event of a bushfire.
Thats the conclusion drawn by Upper Plenty resident Tony Wakefield, and it has been reinforced by the CFA.
Mr Wakefield wants a siren in his township to alert residents of an impending threat.
In the meantime, he has promoted the use of UHF CB radios. Upper Plenty residents with these radios can tune in to channel 12 to keep in touch in times of danger.
But the problem is getting the message to the community.
Mr Wakefield has advocated for the radios on the Upper Plenty website, which he runs. The website was funded by State Government bushfire relief money.
The radios are available to be used but theres not much point if theres only two people that have got them, he said. It needs to be a community activity but Ive had no response by anybody. Not enough people go to community meetings or look at the website.
Mr Wakefields experience on Black Saturday has driven his push for a town siren.
If it hadnt been for Twitter on Black Saturday, I wouldnt have even known there was a fire, he said. Theres no easy way for people on potential bushfire days of finding out information quickly and accurately. Sirens should be used, especially in places like Upper Plenty, because its all ridges and valleys.
Tony ODay, acting operations manager for CFA region 14, said it was the communitys responsibility to install a siren.
Community sirens are supported by CFA but must have a different sound to CFA alerting sirens to avoid possible confusion, he said.
Mr Wakefield said the CFA website did not provide up-to-date information about the location and intensity of fires, and was worried people would not receive timely information if phone towers were cut off.
Anything that uses mains power is not going to work at the critical time, he said.
Mr ODay, who endorsed the use of CB radios, said residents should have a battery powered AM/FM radio handy to listen to emergency advice and updates.
He also defended the efficiency of the CFA website.
Initial notification is uploaded almost immediately as the website information is directly linked to our dispatch centre. Further information is updated regularly, usually within 20 minutes of sign off by relevant people to ensure the information is as accurate as possible prior to release, he said.