Resident says CFA website added to confusion

A BENDIGO resident who was prepared to flee his property during Tuesday night’s smoke scare believes there is room to improve the CFA website.

Phil Robertson from Emu Creek believes the website actually added to the confusion on Tuesday when CFA brigades were called out to multiple fires, later found to be false alarms.

The region was covered in smoke about 7pm on Tuesday from a fire in Chepstowe, near Ballarat, causing many people to call 000 to report fires that did not exist.

Mr Robertson’s home is surrounded by bushland and he was sitting down to dinner with his family when he noticed the smoke.

Mr Robertson said he turned on the computer, logged onto the CFA website and packed bags in preparation to leave his home.

“It seems, with hindsight, that information about each reported fire was loaded onto the website before the existence of a fire was actually confirmed,” he said. “This undoubtedly caused a fair degree of concern for people living down wind of the various incidents. 

“Perhaps another level of warning could be considered for such cases. Something along the lines of, ‘Fire reported, but as yet unconfirmed’.”

Mr Robertson said it would have been helpful to have more direct information about the situation.

“I grew up on a farm and I understand how fire works – I’ve been a member of the CFA,” he said. “I knew of fires around the Ballarat area so I figured the smoke could have been from there.

“Then my neighbour rang and said, ‘What’s going on?’ so we switched on the computer and radio to listen in and it was confusing because there were fires reported in Bendigo.”

Mr Robertson said incidents kept popping up on the site, including the number of fire appliances being sent to the supposed fire.

“In hindsight, it wasn’t really going, it had just been reported and they were investigating it,” he said. “So, maybe 20 minutes later, it would come up saying it was a false alarm but we were being a bit misinformed.”

Mr Robertson said ABC Radio had also been unreliable, providing very little relevant information about the local situation.

“My son had the idea that there could be a separate radio station – an emergency radio station run by university students who would be monitoring the emergency headquarters,” he said.

“It’s all a learning process so a bit of feedback from a user’s perspective is probably what they need.”

Editorial – Page 10

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