A BENDIGO club has called for Australians to embrace radio technology to improve communication during emergencies.
The club advocated for an independent communications network to provide essential services in cases of damage to telecommunications systems in a submission to the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements.
Bendigo Amateur Radio and Electronics Club representatives said a suitable system - amateur radio - already existed, it was just not used in emergencies.
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Club president Neil Patton said an independent network of amateur radio could be made available to response and recovery groups, such as the Red Cross, in case of emergency.
Mr Patton said the club submitted to the Royal Commission after seeing communications networks become overloaded and fail during the 2009 and 2019 bushfires.
The commission was formed to examine preparedness and response to bushfires, in light of devastating bushfires during the 2019-2020 season.
In the face of [natural disaster] ... no other communications network capability has every matched amateur radio for survivability, flexibility, scalability, coverage or speed of deployment.Neil Patton
Nearly 1400 telecommunications facilities were affected by the bushfires during 2019-2020. About 700 were out for more than four hours.
Mr Patton said overseas amateur radio operators stepped up in emergency situations, but it was not part of Australias response plan in a significant way.
He said a 40,000 strong special interest group of amateur radio operators was uniquely fitted to fill gaps.
"Amateur radio in Australia needs to carve out its own role in emergency response capability," Mr Patton said.
"The community is not served by the emergency communications network as it currently exists. So we see our role as providing this secondary service.
"In the face of [natural disaster] ... no other communications network capability has every matched amateur radio for survivability, flexibility, scalability, coverage or speed of deployment."
Mr Patton said operators would need to put in place a certain amount of infrastructure, which it could then offer to the community under certain circumstances. For instance, he said on a Code Red day operators might throw communications open to second responder groups.
Mr Patton said Australia should create a system where the community recognised amateur radio operators had something to offer.
He said the system was often unknown to emergency services as well.
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