Emergency communication network for Happy Valley

The situation

During the 2009 Victorian bushfires, communication within Happy Valley was severely tested: landlines were lost and mobile service was severely limited. The community felt vulnerable after the fires and wanted to ensure that they could pro-actively reach everyone in their area. They sought support for UHF network to enhance communication between residents of Happy Valley in emergency situations.

The response

The Happy Valley Hall Committee lodged an application to purchase 44 handheld and six mobile UHF radios to set up a radio network. FRRR provided a grant of $13,829.

The outcome

Three hubs were established and the valley residents were divided between these three hubs according to geographical location. Any household without a UHF radio was provided with one of those purchased. Also provided was basic training and an A4 fridge magnet with standard procedures in case of emergency listed. All residents were invited to the Happy Valley Hall on 3 occasions to distribute radios, provide information on operation and introduce hub co-ordinators.

Communication within the valley has been greatly enhanced. By collecting and distributing contact details of all residents it has lifted the awareness of who lives where. The radios have provided added confidence to all residents. The hub coordinators hold regular testing and residents are encouraged to use the radios to become familiar with their operation.

Distribution and training sessions were also social events with newcomers welcomed. There is a growing confidence about what to do in an emergency and all participants have been extremely positive in their comments about their ability to communicate in any emergency.

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